Motherwell in good frame of mind after Russian test

Stuart Carswell, left, was one of the players drafted in as Motherwell put up a battling display against Kuban Krasnodar. Picture: SNSStuart Carswell, left, was one of the players drafted in as Motherwell put up a battling display against Kuban Krasnodar. Picture: SNS
Stuart Carswell, left, was one of the players drafted in as Motherwell put up a battling display against Kuban Krasnodar. Picture: SNS
Fraser Kerr believes Motherwell’s performance in Russia can provide a good platform for their domestic campaign as they target victory over Aberdeen tomorrow.

Stuart McCall’s side lost 1-0 to Kuban Krasnodar to exit the Europa League 3-0 on aggregate following Stephen McManus’ headed own goal.

But they came close to securing an unlikely away draw against a team unbeaten in the Russian Premier League since November last year when Bob McHugh had a last-minute penalty saved.

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Kerr, who played right midfield in Krasnodar, said: “To come away with a 1-0 is not a bad result there. It was a good performance and we were unlucky missing a penalty in the last minute.

“The manager said after the game on the pitch that we can hold our heads high after that game. There were a good few 
individual performances and as a team we played well.

“We went 1-0 down with 40 minutes to go and didn’t cave in, we kept at it and created a couple of chances. It puts us in a good frame of mind for Aberdeen on Sunday. We’re just looking forward now to trying to get three points and continue our good start to the league.”

McCall showed how much the Aberdeen game means to him by leaving James McFadden, John Sutton and Iain Vigurs behind for the trip to Russia to prevent them aggravating muscle issues on the six-and-a-half-hour flight home.

A tired-looking Motherwell team drew at home to both St Johnstone and St Mirren following European excursions last season but Kerr is confident they will be in good shape to win the game.

“We have a couple of days to recover, have a cool down and just rest up us much as we can, so we will be ready for Sunday,” he said.

The omission of the three experienced attacking players meant McCall was able to bring in younger, more defensive-minded players like Kerr, Stuart Carswell and Zaine Francis-Angol and the former Birmingham player relished the chance to test himself against the Russians.

“I came on as sub in the first leg against Levante and I started over there last season so I had some experience of playing in Europe,” he said. “The atmosphere was brilliant, it was almost a full house, so it was an incredible experience.

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“I’m more defensive than offensive, I’ve never really played right mid but the manager said to go on and track the left-back and do your best so that’s what I tried to do. The goal kind of killed it but it was unlucky. The boys put a lot of effort in.”

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes insists his side have some way to go before they can be considered realistic contenders for second spot in the Scottish Premiership this season.

The Dons enjoyed a positive start to the campaign by recording a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock last week and will be hoping for a repeat of the result at Fir Park.

Motherwell are tipped to be strong contenders for the runners-up spot again this term.

But McInnes believes it is far too early to bill this weekend’s clash as a battle between the ‘best of the rest’ challengers.

He said: “I will down-play that. How can we say we are the two contenders for second spot when we’ve only played 90 minutes?

“I get what the media think and there are a lot of people predicting that. But Motherwell have proved themselves and they deserve that tag of being up there. We haven’t and we’ve got work to do to prove that tag.”

McInnes is hopeful of a victory over McCall’s men but says he will not read too much into the result if they do return to the Granite City with three points.

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He added: “I wouldn’t say it puts down a marker. Again, I think that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For me, if we can go and get a positive result at Motherwell, it’s a fantastic result and no more than that.”