REACTION: Ross & Alexander reflect on thriller cup tie

Following Saturday’s pulsating Scottish Cup meeting, Hibs manager Jack Ross and Motherwell boss Graham Alexander summed up their emotions post-match. Callum Watt reports.

(Photo Credit – SNS Group)

RECAP

Hibernian made it to the Scottish Cup semi-final on Saturday after a spirited Motherwell comeback forced them to penalties at Easter Road.

Christian Doidge opened the scoring for the hosts with an excellent header before Jackson Irvine doubled Hibs’ lead ten minutes from time.

Hibs looked in pole position to make it to the final four, but Motherwell had other ideas with Ricki Lamie and Tony Watt scoring two late goals to take the game to extra time.

In the end, penalties were required to separate the sides. Two Motherwell misses gave Hibs the advantage before Ryan Porteous scored the crucial spot kick and sent the Hibees to Hampden once again.

WHAT THEY SAID

Hibs head coach Jack Ross was a happy man and although they made hard work of it, he insisted he wasn’t just ‘relieved’ to be through to the next round.

“To be honest it’s pride and enjoyment. I can understand why you would say that because of how the game panned out but it’s not easy to win quarter finals, so it’s just pride in the players progressing to another semi-final.”

Speaking on his club’s chances of lifting the trophy he said: “We set big ambitions at the start of the season of what we wanted to achieve – winning the cup was one of them. We believe we’re a good enough group to do it, but you have to continually prove it on the park.

“For 80 minutes of the first 90 we showed that in abundance. We were really, really good then the game takes a turn in the last ten, but in extra time we showed great character again. I think the players have improved and grown over the season but every team which gets to this last four stage will believe they can go on and win it.”

Ross was keen to stress he didn’t feel his team ‘bottled’ it even after being two goals to the good with ten minutes to go, but warned his players must show a fighting mentality in the games to come.

“People will probably point to us being 2-0 ahead but that can happen in games – I don’t think that was us not handling it, more just soft goals we conceded. I do think we have gotten better with the bigger challenges and we’re going to have to show that in the remaining league games and semi-final tie.”

Hibernian have competed into two semi-finals already this season – against Hearts in last season’s Scottish Cup and against St Johnstone in the League Cup – but lost out on both occasions. Asked if his players are looking to give a better account of themselves this time around, he said:

“The semi-finals have been strange occasions for us – I think against Hearts we were good and there were very fine margins for us not winning it. In the first half against St Johnstone we were excellent, but second half we were dreadful and that’s the bit people remember.

“The end result is always how we’re judged so, in all honesty, I just want to win it – I don’t care if we’re horrific on the day but win the tie. We’ve had the pain of losing our last two semi-finals, so we want to make sure we have that elation of getting through.”

Motherwell boss Graham Alexander expressed his disappointment in exiting the cup and said he felt his team could’ve won it near the end.

“I’m gutted for everybody because I thought the players were magnificent. We came with a game plan to frustrate at first which worked really well. We took a step back after half-time for some reason and allowed them to have easy possession in our half and we were sorely punished for it. But I just thought the reaction from that point was absolutely amazing – the players showed the character to get the ball, press from the front and show what a quality team we can be.

“I thought there was only one winner after that but unfortunately we just couldn’t get that winning goal.”

Alexander felt Hibs’ second goal shouldn’t have stood, simply saying: “It was offside – I’ve seen it back. But what are we going to do?”

Tony Watt made his return as a substitute after missing four games through injury, and the Steelmen’s manager admitted it was a gamble to bring him on.

“If it was a league game, we wouldn’t have done it but because it’s the cup it was win or bust. He only trained on Friday, but we said even if he can’t train for another couple weeks after today, it’s worth going for it and he really helped us when he came on.”

Motherwell sat in during the first half but after going a goal behind they showed a lot more attacking intent to get back in the game. However, Alexander insisted he didn’t have any regrets about his game-plan.

“We didn’t want to be chasing the game early on. We know their three front players [Doidge, Nisbet and Boyle] have a fantastic goal record and they didn’t have a shot on target in the first half.

“I do regret the way we started the second half – we didn’t really put any pressure on them and it was too easy to get to our final third. We know we can defend the first goal better. We’ve come away to a team who has qualified for Europe and been to two semi-finals already so over the piece I think we were good.”

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