Alan Pattullo: Perhaps a little overawed by the occasion, today's Motherwell could not emulate class of '91

IN the end, the opposition did manage three goals. But those Motherwell fans who had been hoping for a re-run of the 1991 cup final were destined to feel only disappointment.

A fairly striking series of similarities linking this season to 1990-91, when Motherwell defeated Dundee United in a classic final by four goals to three, had given fans of the Fir Park club something to hold onto.

These included the fact that Motherwell were being led out by a manager who had once played in midfield for Rangers, as happened 20 years ago when Tommy McLean did the honours. Just like that season, Rangers have just clinched their third successive league title. But just as the Rapture did not arrive on Saturday night, the omens for a Motherwell win proved wide of the mark.

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The sky was steel grey, but the pitch was green - and it's there where Motherwell could not contain Celtic. Although their skipper escaped a possible red card for deliberate hand ball in the first half, little else seemed to go Motherwell's way and, truth be told, they probably didn't deserve to be helped by fortune. The ghosts of '91 retain their place in the record books as the last team from Fir Park to taste Scottish Cup glory. A debate had briefly raged about the merits of the present Motherwell outfit over the team of 20 years ago. On this evidence, it is not even a matter worth considering. The goals dried up and the ambition withered when it really mattered on Saturday.

The temptation is to accuse Motherwell of being guilty of the worst possible crime when presented with an opportunity such as this, and that is failing to make the most of it. Goalkeeper Darren Randolph later stressed that he believed they had given everything. If so, then manager Stuart McCall's tactics might need to be scrutinised further.

John Sutton was given the task of playing up front on his own until joined by Francis Jeffers, with 20 minutes remaining. While this might have worked if the lone striker was Tommy Coyne, the conclusion, certainly on the evidence of Saturday, is that Sutton is no Coyne.

Indeed, Motherwell could have done with many of their old heroes of old, though Gavin Gunning did a passable impression of Colin O'Neill when firing a shot on goal that would have torn the net from its moorings, had it not put a dent in the crossbar.

But that was really it for Motherwell in an attacking context, although Chris Humphrey came close with a volleyed half-chance just after the interval. "Take Your Place in History" was the phrase included at the top of each page in the match day programme. Motherwell patently failed to do this. John Boyle's reign as chairman ended with a whimper, while McCall's ability to get results at crucial times deserted him here.

In a season where they had to change managers midway through the campaign, it was an achievement for Motherwell to get to the final. Yet this feeling - that it was enough to simply be present at Hampden - seemed to infect the entire Motherwell contingent, from fans to players. While they turned out in impressive numbers, the supporters appeared just as inhibited as the team.

Only the fan who proposed to his girlfriend at half-time seemed ready to take any risks. He got the answer he had been looking for. Maybe, just maybe, if Motherwell had asked some more questions ...

Randolph later expressed the opinion that Celtic had been "there for the taking". If so, then it would have taken a team in a more attacking frame of mind than Motherwell to take advantage of any shortcomings on Celtic's part.

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"They got the luck today," he added. "I said before the game, you don't want to wake up after the game and think, ‘I should have done this, I should have done that'. You have to go out and give everything. If we are going to lose it, then we really want to go for it. If we get beat by three, four or five then we want to know that we had a go, and we put it all out there on the table."

Could Motherwell truly say that they did that? So much had been expected of Jamie Murphy, but either Celtic handled him well or he did not turn up. Not that it is fair to blame someone for failing to rise to the occasion in their first Scottish Cup final. At 21, Murphy will taste such experiences again, but here he was not the player who terrorised St Johnstone in the semi-final. "There are obviously things that you wish you had done," Murphy said afterwards. "But there is no use thinking about it now."

Although Celtic have won this trophy 35 times, Randolph felt Motherwell could prey on their opponents' lack of individual experience of such occasions. They last lifted the trophy in 2007. Only Mark Wilson was at the club then, though he did not play in the win over Dunfermline.

"In their team, apart from maybe Scott Brown, no one else has I suppose won much," he said. "Rangers have experience in Weir, McCulloch, Davis and Naismith. We thought we could keep it 0-0 for as long as possible."

In the event, they managed to keep on level terms until only just after the half-hour mark, when Ki swung his left foot at the ball. There was no way back for Motherwell.