“My head is throbbing from shouting at them,” quipped a mostly satisfied Neil Lennon after his side emerged victorious from what was a potentially tricky fixture for Hibernian at Fir Park.
It was a tense end to a match in which Martin Boyle had earlier rounded Trevor Carson midway through the first half to score the game’s only goal, giving the away side their second consecutive 1-0 win following their Edinburgh derby exploits earlier in the week.
“We were the better team by far,” Lennon said. “Again, I sound like a broken down record, but my only criticism is we should have been home and hosed. We’re missing good chances but we are dominating games.
“We forced Motherwell to change their shape first half because we were in total control. Motherwell have been on a great run, they’ve had a great start to the season, so to come here and play as well as that, I’m delighted.”
Lennon stuck with the same line-up that defeated Hearts, though set up differently, with Brandon Barker at the tip of a midfield diamond, just behind Simon Murray and Martin Boyle in attack.
It gave Hibs an extra body in midfield and Boyle’s pace from runs in behind caused the Motherwell backline several issues. On two occasions he was through and failed to take advantage, but Boyle wasn’t to be denied at the third time of asking after Murray collected the ball in midfield and sent the ball over the top of the home defence.
It was a blustery afternoon, which may have been a factor when Cedric Kipre failed to connect and nod it back to Trevor Carson, and this caused the keeper to hesitate. By the time he knew what had happened, Boyle’s first touch had knocked it beyond the helpless keeper, leaving the forward with an open goal to roll the ball into.
Motherwell have proved in recent weeks that they have just as much quality on the bench, though it was only Elliott Frear that retained his place from the four changes for the midweek victory over Dundee.
It was, though, a contest in which he and his side failed to get going and Hibs’ dominance forced Motherwell into a change of shape in the first half, as well as a double-substitution at half-time – including the withdrawal of Frear.
And while those changes facilitated Motherwell in carving out more opportunites they were unable to make the breakthrough. The closest they came was when one of those changes, Gael Bigirimana, found Chris Cadden with a splendid long, diagonal pass with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Cadden then fired low across the face of goal towards Motherwell’s third sub, and debutant, Deimantas Petravicius at the back post. The Lithuanian was denied a dream start to his Fir Park career however when Steven Whittaker appeared from nowhere with a tremendous game-winning block.
Hibs were dangerous on the break as Motherwell pressed for an equaliser and the away side were adept in repelling the inevitable aerial bombardment towards the end of the match.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the home side and their manager Stephen Robinson admitted that his side were beaten at their own game.
“We got what we deserved,” he said. “We lacked a spark today. What Hibs done to us, we’ve done to other teams. We lost the physical battle today, they came out with every second ball.
“People talk about how good a football team Hibs are. They came out with every second ball, they picked up every loose ball, they won every header.”