Motherwell 2 Hamilton 0: Racism gets red card and a helping hand

AT THE end of the SPL's annual "show racism the red card" afternoon, this decent derby match left a sour test in the mouth. When Hamilton made second-half changes, despite earlier applauding the anti-racism message, some Motherwell fans booed 17-year-old James McCarthy and taunted him obscenely about his decision to play for Ireland, as is his perfect right. Red-carding racism obviously doesn't apply when the subject is Irish.

In the week when words like "bloodlines" began to be used by people who should know better as Nacho Novo was banned from playing for Scotland, it made all that guff about footballing "social inclusion" seem like empty rhetoric. Hamilton manager Billy Reid said afterwards it was "a West of Scotland" thing.

That's true, Billy, but let's call it what it is – stupid racism by fans hoping to upset their opponents. They should hear these words of Accies' player Alex Neil: "It is not an issue. It is not even a topic we discuss. And on the pitch you can't hear what fans are saying anyway." In other words, why bother?

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Perhaps the ultimate irony was that it took an Englishman – no Scottish bloodline, and he wants to play for England and be in the Premiership, as he admitted afterwards – to win the match. Chris Porter was by some distance the most influential player afield and could have had four or five. "Maybe he's got Spanish blood," joked Motherwell manager Mark McGhee afterwards.

The first half started poorly, as the 4-3-3 formations of both teams cancelled out any attempt to open up play. For a derby, it was also a curiously anodyne encounter at first. Richard Offiong had the first chance off Mark Corcoran's clever cross after 10 minutes, but shot weakly straight at Graeme Smith. At the other end, Tomas Cerny dived well to his left to tip Porter's effort wide. Bob Malcolm got himself booked for typically awkward rather than malicious stuff, and was joined later in the half by teammate Keith Lasley for a similar offence.

With barely a serious chance for either team in the first half hour, play began at last to open up, and it was Motherwell who mostly pressed forward. They should have gone ahead after 34 minutes when David Clarkson's powerful goalbound header was blocked by his own player, Porter being "unable to get out of the way", as he said. The villain turned hero three minutes later when Alex Neil fouled Clarkson out on the left and Malcolm sent in a fierce free kick which Porter dived to glance past Cerny with a deft header.

The visitors should have equalised less than five minutes later when Simon Mensing threaded a superb pass into the inside-left channel for Corcoran whose shot across the goal went just wide of Smith's left-hand post.

Motherwell ended the half in the ascendancy, John Sutton's header from a Steven Hammell free kick being well held by Cerny, and their domination of the attacking stuff continued into a much better, more open and certainly more passionate second half, Sutton missing from close range and Porter hitting the post with an adroit header off a Sutton cross, before Clarkson chased a Sutton header and was unlucky to see his chip over Cerny go just wide.

Controversy surrounded Motherwell's second goal after 67 minutes, Clarkson's shot being turned behind Cerny by Porter who was lurking in what appeared an offside position. The Czech goalkeeper went charging off to the linesman to protest and was booked. "Maybe the linesman thought it went straight in – he was eight yards offside," fumed Reid. He was about six out with his estimate.

Hamilton pressed hard to get something out of the game, McCarthy's arrival proving inspirational, and Hammell getting booked for his atrocious effort to stop one attack. James McArthur was later also booked. The visitors left gaps at the back which Porter and substitute Jamie Murphy almost exploited.

After the final whistle, some of the coaching squads on the Hamilton and Motherwell benches squared up to each other as emotions spilled over. But it was the Lanarkshire two-step, all verbals and not even handbags. Such a pity that feelings also ran high among those Motherwell fans who disgraced their club.


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He could and should have scored a handful but his two goals and all-round contribution made Chris Porter the easy choice. "His goal last week, when he linked up with John Sutton, was a sign for me that he had turned the corner a bit," said Mark McGhee.


After a shaky start, Motherwell now have the same points as they did last season at this stage. And look where they ended up at the end of the season.


Apart from Motherwell fans racially abusing James McCarthy, there was the unseemly spat at the end. Asked if they would settle things over tea, McGhee quipped: "I hope so. There are about 200 pies to be eaten."