Hughes typifies Motherwell's rejuvenation under McGhee

Motherwell 1 Porter 24

Rangers 1 Boyd 66 (pen)

EXAMPLES of Premier League teams demonstrating ingenuity and enterprise in matches against the Old Firm are so rare that neutral onlookers are entitled to savour those occasions when such tactics are successful.

More than a few eyebrows were raised and heads shaken when it was revealed Mark McGhee would deploy three strikers, as he has done for the majority of the season, against Rangers on Saturday; that the Motherwell manager was himself rather perturbed his side did not win the match says it all.

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McGhee is fast becoming Scottish football management's latest success story. By his own admission, the former Aberdeen and Celtic striker is an unfulfilled figure where management is concerned after a series of ill-judged career moves when held in similarly high regard in England. That factor can surely only work in Motherwell's favour in the coming months.

Motherwell played without inhibition here, an attitude derived from the attacking mindset of their manager. And if the sign of a capable manager is that he can get the best out of players who once sauntered along as little more than Steady Eddies, McGhee has passed that particular test with flying colours.

Steven McGarry, Paul Quinn and Ross McCormack represent cases in point and, in the examples of McGarry and McCormack in particular, their new-found form can be directly linked to the loss of at least a stone in weight.

Fir Park punters, who afforded their team a standing ovation when they left the field at half-time, leading 1-0, have almost forgotten the previously revered Martyn "Kaiser" Corrigan, who cannot find a place among McGhee's squad of 18 these days.

And then there is the case of Stephen Hughes, the former Rangers midfielder brought back to his home town from Leicester City by McGhee, and who enjoyed an epic battle in midfield throughout 90 minutes with Barry Ferguson, a man he once called a colleague.

"The manager has done brilliantly here," Hughes said. "He has come here and installed that belief into us that we can go out, not keeping it to a two- or three-nil defeat, but that we can win the game. We were confident we could beat Rangers, we knew we could get something out the game because of the confidence within our squad."

That Motherwell did not claim three points was, in McGhee's opinion, largely down to referee Craig Thomson's decision not to award a penalty early in the second half when Steven Naismith appeared to barge Clarkson. The latter had earlier played in Chris Porter to open the scoring, the former Oldham Athletic striker claiming his third league goal of the season with a calm finish under Allan McGregor.

There was no dubiety from either party about the spot-kick which allowed Rangers to claim a point from a troublesome venue, Keith Lasley unable to remove his legs from a tangle with DaMarcus Beasley after the visitors' American winger had showed sublime trickery to beat the Motherwell midfielder. Kris Boyd, who endured an otherwise wasteful 90 minutes, made no mistake from 12 yards in what the Fir Park tannoy announcer claimed was "Rangers' usual penalty ..."

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Walter Smith's frustration at conceding a two-point advantage over Celtic in the championship race was compounded by the hamstring injury sustained by Jean-Claude Darcheville, his French striker who lasted only 10 minutes after replacing Steven Whittaker at half-time and will miss tomorrow's Champions League match against Lyon. Daniel Cousin, who sat this match out, Boyd and Naismith will now be at the forefront of the manager's thoughts, with Darcheville unable to resume the lone striker role he played against Stuttgart.

"Jean-Claude will be a massive miss for us," conceded Naismith. "Guys like myself and the others who haven't been involved in Europe need to step up and show the manager he can rely on us now."