By Euan Wood
Motherwell were left to rue their squandered opportunities as they were held to a 0-0 draw in front of a lively home support at Fir Park. Liam Donnelly saw red after his late challenge on Drey Wright which inadvertently saw manager Graham Alexander sent to the stands for his protests.
The Motherwell boss vented his frustrations with referee Andrew Dallas after full-time as his red card decision shifted the hosts’ control of the tie:
“We held out with 10-men but before that we were the team that had the chances, that made the keeper make saves and I don’t think we conceded a shot on target tonight. I thought we played really well today, but when it goes to 10-men it’s tough. The point was the least we deserved from tonight.
“[Referees] are there to make decisions. I think Liam has made two fouls all game [and I] saw one of their centre-half’s making foul after foul and just getting a warning. So, that’s where my frustration was.
“I thought Liam was harshly dealt with… to get sent off for that in a game against two teams who had competed very well… I think it is a harsh decision. I was making my viewpoint, but obviously, I’m not allowed to.”
Despite not being able to capitalise on the late advantage, Hibs manager Shaun Maloney was pleased with his side’s display:
“I was really pleased with the performance. Slightly disappointing that we didn’t take one of the chances that we had, but in these conditions, I’ve got to be very pleased with how the team played.
“I think maybe we weren’t as patient as we could’ve been. When a team goes down to 10-men you want to attack as much as you can…but I can’t criticise any of my forward players when they miss a chance.
“We get a point closer to Hearts in third, but it was our first opportunity to go fourth. Considering where we were six weeks ago, to then beat Aberdeen and Dundee United away who were all above us. I think it is a positive start so far.”
It was an exhilarating opening period of the game with the visitors looking to dimmish Motherwell’s advantage in the Premiership table. Fuelled by their vast away support, Hibs started on the front foot and almost found themselves ahead after only one minute.
Kevin Nisbet’s perfectly timed run exposed Motherwell’s high defensive line, allowing the striker to race through on goal, but Jake Carroll’s last-ditch tackle nullified what was an early warning sign for the hosts.
Looking for a response, Motherwell progressed forward and came close to netting the opener minutes later.
A clever interchange of play between Donnelly and Kevin Van Veen left the Irishman unmarked at the edge of the box, but the midfielders low driven effort sailed wide of the target.
Motherwell continued to threaten and almost broke the deadlock minutes later with Hibs defender Rocky Bushari making his presence known to Van Veen with a powerful challenge at the edge of the
penalty area. The Dutchman tried his luck from the resulting free-kick, but his curling effort was easily gathered by Matt Macey.
Motherwell were certainly the likelier of the two sides to take advantage as the half-time whistle loomed. Lewis Stevenson’s late challenge on Jordan Roberts gave Motherwell a free kick in an advanced position.
Hibs failed to clear Sean Goss’ looping delivery which fell kindly to Van Veen at the back post, who would’ve only required the slightest of touches to prod his effort into the empty net, but the forward misjudged his attempt and sent his volley high into the stands.
Motherwell were then reduced to 10-men deep into the second half as Donnelly was given his marching orders for a late challenge on substitute Drey Wright. The midfielders challenge was reckless, leaving referee Andrew Dallas no alternative but to brandish the red card.
The referee then approached the animated Motherwell technical area and sent manager Graham Alexander to the stands for his infuriated protests.
With the Motherwell squad depleted, Hibs pushed forward in search of a late winner. Ewan Henderson skillfully worked his way past his marker at the edge of the box before firing an enticing delivery across the face of goal, but Nisbet couldn’t react quick enough at the back post to divert his drilled effort goal bound.
With the final few minutes ticking away, Josh Doig’s hopeful long ball held up invitingly for Christian Doidge in the blustery conditions, but with the goal at his mercy, the forward blazed his strike over the crossbar.
Here are the three things we learned as Hibs fail to capitalise on Motherwell’s red card in the testing Lanarkshire conditions:
The rock at the back
In only his second league appearance since signing on loan from Norwich, 22-year-old centre back Rocky Bushiri impressed as he kept Motherwell’s prolific talisman, Van Veen at bay. Bushiri looks to be an exciting addition to a Hibs side targeting for European football next season. His performance caught the eye of Maloney who heaped praise on the young defender after the final whistle:
“Rocky was outstanding tonight against their biggest threat, he was excellent; so I’m really pleased. I was pleased with all the back three; Lewis Stevenson was superb and Paul McGinn for his first game back since suspension, but Rocky was a standout. An excellent performance from him.
His fellow teammate and former product of the Motherwell youth academy, Chris Cadden added:
“I thought he was excellent. Obviously, Van Veen is tough and can give centre half’s the run-around, but I thought he was brilliant and has been great ever since he came in. I don’t think he has played too much football which is a credit to him as well and we’ve been really impressed with him.”
Carroll regains his place
Following his exceptional performances last season, it would be hard to comprehend that Jake Carroll has found himself recently out a favour at Fir Park. The versatile defender who can play in a range of positions has found minutes hard to come by this season – playing less than 10 minutes against St. Johnstone, Dundee United, St Mirren and Ross County.
However, recent injuries concerns have impacted upon the squad depth available to Alexander, which has allowed Jake Carroll to regain a consistent run of form.
After his impressive display at Centre back, Carroll said:
“I’m enjoying it, I’ve felt comfortable there. A few weeks ago, I played against Celtic away and I felt comfortable then. It’s a position I’ve played before and I’m enjoying it.
“Of course, we could’ve won the game, here at home especially, but going down to 10-men and playing against a top side; we will take a point.
“As Kells [Liam Kelly] said, he’s hasn’t had much to do. They had the chance at the start, trying to play offside and they got in behind us, but apart from that we were solid.”
Hibs off the Boyle
The recent departure of Hibs winger Martin Boyle to Saudi Arabian side Al-Faysaly has certainly impacted upon the attacking capabilities at the disposal of manager Shaun Maloney. Hibs failed to register a single shot on target, but Maloney dismissed any concerns with his side’s performance:
“No I’m not really [concerned], I think we created enough chances to win the game. So, in terms of whether they are on target or not: ideally, I’d love as many as possible but in terms of the chances; whether we take them or not, I still can’t criticise.”
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