Motherwell may have achieved a fine result last weekend – but it hasn’t secured their Scottish Premiership survival according to manager Graham Alexander.
A 0-0 draw with St Mirren and 2-0 win over Hibs, both away from home, in their last two matches has given the Steelmen breathing space at the bottom. Alexander’s side are seven points clear of the relegation places ahead of the weekend’s match with Livingston at Fir Park.
But the target of safety hasn’t been hit just yet according to the Motherwell manager: “We’re certainly not out of the danger zone. I’ve not once mentioned ‘top six’ to anybody, not talked about the other end to anybody, I’ve just been talking about the next game, to my players and making sure that we focus on that.
“As soon as we took our focus off of the next game we came unstuck a couple of weeks ago. Our first objective coming in was making sure we’re a Premiership team, so we weren’t thinking about anything more than that, and that’s still the case.
“I’ve said all along that two games, three games, won’t be enough to decide our season, it’s going to go right to the end, and I don’t think that has changed. We didn’t feel that we were going to come in and win every single game, but we were also hoping we wouldn’t come in and lose every game, and that has been the case.
“We’ve certainly improved on the previous results, but not enough to change the picture dramatically, so we need to keep working really hard.”
One major issue Alexander has been affected by are injuries. Motherwell have a large squad, an estimated 40 players in total, but many are out with injury. Captain Declan Gallagher returned last weekend against Hibs while winter signings Harry Smith, Eddie Nolan and Sam Foley are still out.
Alexander says it has been a problem but getting Gallagher back is a boost: “It’s a big squad, I think it’s over 40 players, and obviously we added to that in January because we felt we had to, because of the number of injuries we had.
“Unfortunately probably four or five of those seven players have been injured as well, so it has been really difficult to assess the whole squad, because we haven’t had the whole squad – luckily enough, I think, because it think training 40-odd players would be very difficult.
“It’s one where I think we’ve made good improvements on the results, which is the first port of call, and I think with what they’ve done so far they’ve gained confidence. There have been a couple of set-backs with the team, which I think the players have reacted well to, which is good, but I don’t think we can sit here and assess the squad until we get to the end of the season, assess where we are and where we finished.
“We have Declan and several others who have not been in the team and are fighting to be in the team. There were reasons Declan wasn’t in the team, obviously because of his injury, but his reaction to training and how he has pushed himself to be fit has been superb. He is a seasoned professional and a quality one. We need him. It’s good to have him back.”
League One and Two will return this month after a suspension from early January. It means that Motherwell’s Scottish Cup campaign will begin on April 3rd, starting with a third round tie against either Annan Athletic or Formartine United.
It could also allow some younger players to move out on loan to the lower leagues: “We have had some enquiries this week so that will be good for those guys. But what we have to make sure is we look after Motherwell first and make sure we have players available to have a full squad.
“We have had several youngsters in our matchday squad since I have been here so we can’t look after other clubs before we look after ourselves. And these young players have the opportunity to show what they can do every day in training, because they are training with and against top-class professionals.
“We need to get some closed-doors games for the players who have not been playing, and we can’t leave ourselves short for those games either. So it’s a bit of a balancing act. We have to make sure we look after our own case and, if we have the opportunity to give these lads regular football, then we have to look at it seriously.”
NTOF now offers a YouTube channel featuring exclusive interviews, post-match discussion, in-depth debate, and much more – LIKE and SUBSCRIBE and don’t miss any of our videos.