The same but different from Hibs as they blunt Motherwell

28/10/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP' MOTHERWELL v HIBERNIAN (0-1)' FIR PARK - MOTHERWELL' Hibernian's John McGinn (below) in action with Motherwell's Andy Rose.
28/10/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP' MOTHERWELL v HIBERNIAN (0-1)' FIR PARK - MOTHERWELL' Hibernian's John McGinn (below) in action with Motherwell's Andy Rose.
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Both these sides are, in their own way, among the most entertaining in the country at the moment, and although Hibernian’s general play may be easier on the eye, until this encounter at least, Motherwell’s style had proved more effective, with the Lanarkshire side now looking forward to a Betfred Cup final next month.

Hibs, on the other hand, exited the cup at the semi-final stage, though have finally managed to turn good performances into good results.

After a 1-0 victory in the midweek Edinburgh derby, and with Anthony Stokes and Danny Swanson still sidelined, Lennon named the same starting XI and moved Martin Boyle from wide right to through the middle with Simon Murray, and Brandon Barker from the left into the No 10 role.

This may have seemed a curious decision given that both had run their opposite number ragged 
on Tuesday night but, by the end of the 90 minutes, and another 1-0 victory in the bag, the reasons were obvious.

It gave the away side an extra man in the centre of the park, freeing up Bartley to patrol the area where Motherwell feed off scraps and second balls and, at the other end, it meant more pressure on a back three that had recorded three clean sheets in their previous four matches.

One aspect of this was the pace of Boyle, who was sent in behind the Motherwell rearguard on three occasions in the first half, the third of which was misjudged by the usually solid Cedric Kipre – though the blustery conditions may have played a part – allowing the speedy forward to round the keeper with his first touch and tap it in with his second.

“We know the threats that they have,” said Boyle. “We tinkered the formation for a wee bit just to upset their back three.

“I can’t even remember much [about my goal],” he added. “I think [Kipre] misjudged it in the wind. The wind was playing havoc all day, but luckily I got on the end of it and it could have been a big collision but I got my big toe in instead and I tapped it in.”

His only grumble – echoing his manager – was that his side didn’t win by more. Again John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch were at the centre of everything, though again Hibs created but couldn’t find the goal to kill the game off.

“That’s been the story of the season. We’ve been playing really well but we’ve not been scoring a lot of goals,” said Boyle.

“We’ve picked up a few wins, but we’re not scoring as much as we should. Me included.

“We’ve been playing really well but just in the scoring department we’ve been a bit lacking and 
the manager’s been a bit disappointed. I wouldn’t say we’ve 
been scraping the wins, we’ve been playing well.”

Still, it was a clever move from Lennon, who returned Boyle and Barker to their more natural positions after forcing Motherwell into a first-half change of shape and a double-substitution at half-time.

Stephen Robinson has introduced Gael Bigirimana to positive effect on a few occasions this season, the diminutive midfielder emerging from the bench to set up a goal in the win over Kilmarnock and repeating the feat to help salvage a point when these sides met at Easter Road last month.

The Burundi cap improved the home side on this occasion, dictating for spells, and it was his beautifully weighted pass that led to Motherwell’s best chance of the match, which took a last-ditch block from Steven Whittaker
to deny Deimantas Petravicius a debut goal.

In all, though, it was a typically
bruising performance from 
Motherwell that lacked the quality from middle to front that their supporters have become accustomed to of late.

“I thought they did a job on us, to be fair. It was similar to the way Aberdeen played in that second game,” said Peter Hartley, who took over the captain’s armband when Carl McHugh was withdrawn at half-time.

“We stayed in the game, we had chances, but it didn’t quite happen for us. It wasn’t us today, we weren’t the Motherwell that you guys have seen in the last four or five weeks.

“That’s football. You have chances.
The difference between winning and losing is taking your chances.”