Saints v Motherwell preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 10th February 2012
Saints play their second home game in a row tomorrow afternoon as Motherwell come to Paisley with both teams needing the win for rather different reasons.
Considering how Motherwell are doing this season - especially away from home - I'd normally be quite happy if we took a point off of them. However, we are getting the stage where we really have to start winning games if we have are serious about making the top six - or avoiding another basement battle. Just two league wins in the last three months is not a great record, even if one of them was a Christmas cracker against Rangers, and we need to do something about it quickly. The solid start we made to the season is quickly being wasted.
Having said that I'd still be satisfied with a point, depending how it was earned. If it's spawny and we're clinging on then that's unacceptable. If we give Motherwell a good game - like we did at Fir Park in December - and a draw is a fair result then fine. Likewise, if Motherwell are the better side and are made to work for their point - or three points - then I can accept that. I cannot accept a performance like we saw against Ross County last week which only got us an undeserved draw thanks to Richard Brittain trying to take out one of his own stands behind the goal.
It is, incredibly, more than four years since we beat Motherwell at home in the league - the fact Ian Maxwell scored a double at Love Street summing up just how bizarre an occasion that was. I don't quite understand the problem - we have beaten them at Fir Park a few times since then and have won a few cup home games against them, but a league win eludes us - despite being 3-1 up thanks to an equally bizarre Hugh Murray double in late 2009. That poor run of form has to come to an end - now.
There's probably a pub trivia question in the fact this will be Jim Goodwin's second successive league game against Motherwell, having been suspended after the game at Fir Park (in which he scored a screamer) before getting himself an injury. He has been sorely missed for the last month or so and hopefully, with the rustiness out of his system, he'll be back to normal. If he is, then that should see David Barron being dropped or at least not being deployed as a holding midfield player. There was no need for two of them against Ross County and Danny Lennon cannot make that mistake again.
Graham Carey's appearance from the bench was one of the few bright points last week and he should be fit enough to come back into the side. Dougie Imrie is also allowed out to play again and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see both Gary Teale and Aaron Mooy make way for them considering they were hooked at half-time last week. Nigel Hasselbaink looked reasonable as a sub but seems to be completely out of favour at the moment and will probably remain on the bench, with Kenny McLean and Darren McGregor continuing to sit in the stands. They will, unfortunately, be joined by Hugh Murray who is injured again and is out for a month or so.
Motherwell have been enjoying a good season, helped in no small part by Aberdeen not deciding to nick their manager - yet. I was highly dubious of Stuart McCall's appointment last year due to his unimpressive stint at Bradford but he's worked wonders at Motherwell to have them in third place - although sadly too far behind Rangers to take advantage of any administration penalty imposed on his old club. The much maligned Fir Park pitch also seems to have been holding together and they are on a decent run of form, with last week's 6-0 Scottish Cup hammering of Morton surely earning them a standing ovation tomorrow!
It will surprise no one who has been paying attention recently that Henrik Ojamaa scored one of those goals and set up another. McCall won a watch by signing him on a free at the start of the year and ensured it was a Rolex time piece by getting him tied up on a two and a half year deal just the other week. It should prove to be a great piece of business assuming he's not Allan Russell and won't go missing now he has his contract. Five goals in six games and a few more assists is probably more than even he could have hoped to achieve in his first weeks in Scottish football - now we'll just need to wait and see if the Estonian can continue this purplest of patches.
As if watching out for him isn't bad enough, we also have to be wary of the former player curse for the second year running. Michael Higdon was criticised by Saints fans for being lazy last season despite scoring 15 goals - and is suffering the same problem at Fir Park after only scoring a meagre 10 so far. He even managed to get himself a rather harsh ban for an apparently offensive gesture he made after scoring at Tannadice a few weeks back. I get the feeling there will be a few more of them - at the opposition fans - if he scores tomorrow! Higdon doesn't exactly have pace but Omar Daley and Chris Humphrey have enough of it for the whole team, while Jamie Murphy is also a goal threat.
I mentioned Morton's comical defeat to Motherwell last week and the fact they managed to concede three goals thanks to Tom Hateley's corners was most amusing. We've already been on the receiving end of his set-piece skills this season - he scored a last minute free-kick at Paisley in August - and hopefully we've been working hard on corners this week, especially with guys like Stephen Craigan and Shaun Hutchison capable of heading them home. Goodwin will get the chance to renew hostilities with Steve Jennings in midfield, while Keith Lasley has added goal scoring to his repertoire this season. Behind them all is Darren Randolph, a solid keeper who rarely does anything silly - unfortunately for us.
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