Parting can be such sweet sorrow for Motherwell’s exiting stalwarts

Motherwell full-back Steven Hammell believes that not only does this season represent his side’s best chance of success but that, for the majority of them, it will also be their final opportunity of bringing silverware to Fir Park.

The SPL leaders face Aberdeen at Pittodrie this afternoon, secure in the knowledge that they haven’t lost there since 2008. On Wednesday, they make the shorter journey to Ibrox, a ground from which they haven’t emerged triumphant since 1997. At stake against Third Division Rangers is a place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup.

However, for Hammell, who will be making his 435th appearance for the Steelmen today, time is running out for them to have their name inscribed on a trophy.

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Next summer manager Stuart McCall faces the prospect of losing goalkeeper Darren Randolph, full-back Tom Hateley, midfielder Nicky Law, winger Chris Humphrey and strikers Jamie Murphy and Michael Higdon when their current contracts expire.

“By consistently qualifying for Europe and reaching the Scottish Cup final last year we’ve raised the status of the club,” said Hammell, pictured. “This is a good bunch of lads and the cups will be especially important for us this year because there will be a lot of players leaving at the end of the season so this is the last chance for them to win something here.

“Would it be a shock if we won? I don’t even know whether or not we’re considered favourites. But they’ll be up for it and determined to prove that they’re still a SPL team. There’s a demand from their fans that they do well because of the circumstances they find themselves in.”

Hammell, 30, is the only survivor from the last Motherwell team to beat Rangers (courtesy of a James McFadden header on Boxing Day, 2002) and he would dearly love to end that sequence. “If we work hard enough then I’m sure we can get something at Ibrox,” he said. “We haven’t beaten them anywhere for ten years and it’s always brought up when we play them but we’ve come close a few times.

“Now there’s a chance for us to go there at a time when results haven’t been great for them and I’m hoping we can take advantage of that. If their results don’t improve then it’ll only add to the pressure on them.”

First, though, they must protect their pole position against the Dons. Centre-half Simon Ramsden knows it will be tough. “Aberdeen will be a hard shift because they don’t concede too many goals but we also feel that, if we can keep a clean sheet, then we have people like Higgy, who’s on fire and scoring goals for fun right now, and other exciting players who can win games for us.”

Aberdeen may be tight at the back but they haven’t been scoring many either, and they could break two 109-year-old records today.

The Dons have drawn their last four games at home 0-0, with three of these games coming this season. It’s 397 minutes since they last found the net at Pittodrie, Scott Vernon scoring in a 2-1 defeat by Hibs last season. The four goalless draws have come against St Mirren twice, Ross County and Hearts.

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And if Aberdeen hit another blank at Pittodrie this lunchtime against Stuart McCall’s side, it will be the first time since they were founded in 1903 that they have gone five home matches in a row without scoring.

If the match finishes even, it will be the first time the Dons have drawn five matches on the trot at Pittodrie.