How Motherwell secured massive win, 179-day hoodoo ended, relegation battle twist, ex-Hibs boss link

Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Ross County, perhaps even St Johnstone, will all be feeling a little bit more tense, more apprehensive this Thursday morning. Motherwell were meant to be that team. Both the assurance and insurance. Destined for bottom spot and the Championship.

They hadn't won in the league since October. They hadn't won at home in the league since August. They had just been turfed out to the Scottish Cup by Championship Raith Rovers. If anyone thought that was a surprise they clearly hadn’t been watching, the Steelmen have been abject. It came at a cost. Club legend Stevie Hammell was relieved of his duties. A horrible way for it to end for a hugely likeable figure. Sympathy is deserved for a coach who started behind the 8-ball having taken over in the summer from Graham Alexander. You add in a January transfer window which, on paper, didn’t exactly inspire and chief executive Alan Burrows departing for a role at Aberdeen at the end of the month and calculations led to the same conclusion, impending relegation.

Yet, here we are. Ninety minutes of football later, a 2-1 win over St Mirren and Motherwell sit ninth. Three points ahead of bottom place United and four points behind St Johnstone who occupy eighth. Less than an hour after the full-time whistle the Scottish Sun reported former Hibs and Dundee United boss Jack Ross sits on a three-man shortlist. It is a job which deserves plenty of consideration. Wednesday night's result, the club's first home win in the league for 179 days, is a step in the right direction but there is still plenty of work to be done. Not just on the field but off the field too. The Steelmen are in a situation where if they were to drop out of the Premiership, after 38 campaigns, it is not expected that they would pop straight back up as Ross County, Hearts and Kilmarnock have in recent seasons.

Interim inspiration

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On the field, credit has to go to interim boss Stuart Kettlewell, who was in charge of the Staggies when they last won the Championship. He tweaked the system. It was only the second time Motherwell set up in a back three/five formation but crucially he used Max Johnston’s directness, tenacity and power down the right to good effect, looking for switches of play, as happened with the winning goal, Sean Goss finding the youngster with a booming pass before he lifted it over Trevor Carson. There was a three-pronged attack with Kevin van Veen centrally with Jonathan Obika and Blair Spittal buzzing around off of them. The trio combined for the opener.

Crucially, it was one of the team's best defensive performances. New signings Dan Casey and Callum Butcher brought a no-nonsense approach to the backline. The home side ceded possession to the Buddies, especially the second half but Stephen Robinson’s men created little after the break.

It was a huge confidence boost, for the players and the fans. Hearts are up next at Fir Park prior to a mammoth double header at Kilmarnock then Ross County. By then a new manager could be in place. There is a big job on the hands of whoever gets it, but Kettlewell showed there is still plenty of life in the Steelmen yet.



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