Butcher bemoans Easter Road semi

MOTHERWELL yesterday criticised the Scottish Football League’s decision to play the Fir Park club’s CIS Insurance Cup semi-final against Hearts at Easter Road, with manager Terry Butcher claiming that the venue offers his opponents an unfair advantage.

Butcher said as soon as the draw was made last Saturday that he wanted the tie to be played at Hampden Park, but his wish was not granted as the SFL named Easter Road - the home of Hearts’ Edinburgh rivals Hibernian - as the venue.

"We’re very disappointed in this decision - going to Easter Road is the worst possible decision from our point of view," said Butcher. "It’s virtually a home game for Hearts and they’d have been as well playing it at Tynecastle. It’s every player’s dream to play at Hampden and we’re not going to get that opportunity. We’ve played every game away from home in the tournament and this will effectively be another one."

Hearts head coach John Robertson was unmoved by the decision to take the game on Tuesday 1 February away from the national stadium and claims he does not care where it is played. "I wouldn’t care if the semi-final is played on a public park - the important thing is that we are there," said Robertson.

Motherwell are also set to post a letter of complaint to the SFL over ticket prices for the semi-final. Fans will be charged normal prices of 24, 22, 18 and 10, with no concessions for OAPs, following the advice of the other three teams involved - Hearts, Dundee United and Rangers.

Motherwell had requested prices be reduced to 20 and 15 for adults and 7 for juniors and OAPs, and John Boyle, the club’s major shareholder, said: "Surely, the objective is to make these ties as good value for money as possible. Our supporters are now facing the prospect of not only travelling to Edinburgh for a semi-final tie at Easter Road but then having to pay top dollar once they get there."

The other tie, between Rangers and Dundee United at Hampden on the same night, will be screened live on the BBC.

The BBC also confirmed yesterday that, as well as screening Thursday’s UEFA Cup match between Rangers and Grazer AK at Ibrox, it will also broadcast live coverage of the Glasgow club’s trip to Holland to play AZ Alkmaar on 2 December.

Meanwhile, Rangers midfielder Dragan Mladenovic is closing in on a full return to competitive action. The Serbia and Montenegro player, recovering from a knee injury, lasted 78 minutes after making a surprise starting appearance for his country on Wednesday in their 2-0 success over Belgium.

Another injury victim, Dundee’s Lee Wilkie, is finally ready to resume full training after being out of action since January due to knee ligament damage.

Manager Jim Duffy is refusing to set a date for his return to competitive action, but has confirmed that he will rejoin the squad next week.