Motherwell beat high-flyers Hibs to boost survival hopes
Hearts loanee Jordan Roberts shone for the Steelman in the capital, as his goal and assist for Devante Cole earned Motherwell a 2-0 victory over Hibs at Easter Road. Callum Watt reports.
Home side Hibernian came into today’s match on the back of four straight wins and were looking to continue their much-improved home form against Motherwell. Five wins from their remaining nine games would see Hibs beat their previous record points total in the Scottish top-flight, and Jack Ross’ side are in a good position to do so.
A toiling Motherwell were the visitors to Easter Road, taking just four points from their last five games. Heavy defeats against St Johnstone and Hamilton, and a goalless draw with top-six hopefuls St Mirren, doesn’t bode well for the Steelmen as they look to avoid being sucked into a relegation dog-fight.
Jack Ross made just one change to his winning side, with young left back Josh Doig dropping out with a “slight knock” and replaced by stalwart Lewis Stevenson. An unnamed player also missed out for a second week in a row due to COVID-related complications. Graham Alexander’s side, still hampered with numerous long-term injuries, saw no changes from their previous match with St Mirren.
The opening exchanges were cagey with both teams battling away in the middle of the pitch looking for a breakthrough but nothing came. Head tennis was the name of the game as Hibs’ Darren McGregor and Motherwell’s Ricki Lamie knocked back a number of searching long balls.
Tony Watt found himself one-on-one with Ofir Marciano in the Hibs box but could only find the side netting, and the Hibees ‘keeper was alert moments to thwart a Jordan Roberts effort. The game became end-to-end as both teams searched for the opening goal, and Motherwell managed to get it in the 25th minute.
Watt played a lovely outside-of-the-boot through ball behind the Hibs defence leaving Paul Hanlon in no man’s land, which Roberts latched onto, slotting the ball between the legs of the onrushing Marciano.
Hibs set out to equalise immediately with Chris Doidge and Chris Cadden both having opportunities to force a save from Liam Kelly, but the goalkeeper remained untroubled.
As the 40-minute mark approached, Motherwell were forced into a change with Nathan McGinley replacing the injured Jake Carroll, but the flow of the game remained the same with Hibs pushing on for an equaliser before the half-time whistle sounded.
A minute after the restart, Motherwell doubled their lead. A poorly defended throw-in saw the ball drop to Roberts who played the ball into the path of Devante Cole, with the striker neatly finishing beyond Marciano into the bottom left corner. It perhaps came against the run of play but was nothing less than the visitors deserved.
Jack Ross wasted no time in changing things with a triple substitution seeing Stevenson, McGregor and Jamie Murphy replaced by Alex Gogic, Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet. Hibs responded well to the second goal but, although Cadden and Martin Boyle continuously found space out wide, their crosses were easily dealt with by the ‘Well rearguard.
As the second half progressed, the Fir Park side began to sit deeper and deeper, often with 11 men behind the ball, and were happy to occasionally hit Hibs on the counter. The hosts never looked as though they were going to score however, with only 11 of their 44 crosses actually finding a green and white shirt.
A Doidge sitter was missed once again when his shot from six yards was saved by Kelly and he headed the rebound wide of the post. Roberts and Cole continued to threaten up top for the Steelmen, and always troubled a shaky Hibs defence.
The final acts of the 90 minutes perfectly summed up Hibs’ fortunes in front of goal and Motherwell’s defending. Kelly rose to punch away a Hibs corner, Boyle met the clearance with a wild swipe, and the ball landed in the upper section of the Famous Five Stand.
Motherwell boss Graham Alexander was sent off by referee Alan Muir in stoppage time – his second red card in four games.
Overall, it was a pretty poor Hibs performance with Kelly only having to make three saves. Motherwell’s defensive soundness was evident throughout and their fans can be confident of avoiding the drop if they maintain that level of performance in their remaining seven games.
- Doidge works very hard – The Welsh frontman got himself into good positions throughout, but few crosses actually reached him. When they did, though, he missed three ‘sitters’. That’s now 14 games without a goal for the striker but based on his work rate, goals will come, and he may go on a scoring spree like he did last season.
- Lamie doesn’t get a sore head – the ‘Well centre back was continuously clearing up and getting rid of any dangerous crosses Hibs attempted from the first whistle. Lamie was part of a very strong defence that kept Hibs’ chances to a minimum and never looked in danger of losing their second clean sheet in a row.
- Jordan Roberts is quite good – the Hearts-loanee notched his first Motherwell goal this afternoon since signing in January and assisted Cole for Motherwell’s second. He was a constant threat and didn’t give the Hibs centre halves a moment’s rest with his clever runs and layoffs.
When Jack Ross finally emerged from the dressing room, he wasn’t overly disheartened by Hibs’ performance and thought his team dominated the match for large spells.
“Today’s another example of how tough opposition are. We didn’t defend as well as we have done in recent games and ultimately didn’t carry that cutting edge – which puts you at the risk of losing the game, which is what happened.
“[Christian Doidge’s] contribution since he got back into the team has been excellent in terms of his all-round play, and I think his all-round play was good today. It’s important that we manage him through this difficult spell but if he continues to put himself in areas to get chances then I’m sure he’ll get that goal return because he’s had it throughout his career.”
Graham Alexander lauded his team’s battling performance and was delighted with their response to a recent run of poor form. He refused to be drawn on his red card, however, and dismissed questions about his touchline etiquette, instead opting to re-emphasise his delight with the result.
“The players have done absolutely everything that was required of them – it was a brilliant performance today and a brilliant result. The front three were such a handful for Hibs today, the midfield three were like dogs of war behind, and the back four and goalkeeper were magnificent.
“The last two games show the spirit, the togetherness and the quality that we have within this club, and it was all underpinned by their work ethic.”
Today’s result sees Hibernian remain in third place, four points ahead of Aberdeen with a game in hand, and ninth place Motherwell reduce the gap on St Johnstone to just one point.
Up next for the Hibees is a trip to Perth to face St Johnstone next Saturday, and Motherwell welcome Livingston to Lanarkshire on the same day.