Motherwell manager Graham Alexander says the Fir Park club ‘merited a point’ against Hibs as they lost 3-2 in their Scottish Premiership opener.
Kevin Van Veen and Bevis Mugabi headers had Motherwell ahead twice at Fir Park but Martin Boyle’s second half penalty sealed a Hibs win. Kyle Magennis and Christian Doidge efforts leveled the scoring for Hibs either side of half-time. Over 5,000 fans were at the game which was fiery in nature, largely down to the crowd in attendance.
Alexander was pleased with the day, if not the result: “I think the performance merited at least a point, but things conspired against us in the second half. But the performance was excellent, I thought we caused Hibs a lot of problems and didn’t let them get into their stride, certainly in the first half.
“Our energy levels dropped a bit mid-second half but that’s understandable considering some of the players were playing their first game for months. I was happy to see the team play like that against a top opponent. I thought the players and supporters bounced off each other.
“Our performance merited the support we got but the crowd really got behind us. They could see what a team we could potentially be this season in an attacking sense, how we worked off the ball, and unfortunately the result has gone away from us. But that’s a performance we need to replicate because in other games we will win.”
New Motherwell captain Stephen O’Donnell was deemed to have handled the ball in the box before Boyle converted from 12 yards. Alexander said of the penalty: “I’ve not seen it from close up, only from wide-angle footage, but all I can see is Stephen O’Donnell is two yards away from the shot.
“I defy anyone to do something different. His arm is not above his head or anything like that. I don’t know what we are supposed to do with that. I am trying to work out what a natural position is when you are running out to the ball – is it supposed to be in your pocket? It’s not the referee’s fault because the rule is there.
“When players put their arms behind their back that seems to be ok but that’s not a natural position when you are running. I don’t know where the definition is. For me in the spirit of the game it’s not a penalty but has it going to be given? 100%.”
Goalscorer Van Veen shone for Motherwell and won Man of the Match on his first Premiership appearance. Alexander says the Dutch striker was ‘unplayable’: “I know of Kev’s quality. I managed him before at Scunthorpe United and unfortunately lost him to another club at an important time.
“I thought he was sensational. Unplayable. Other players around him were as good but Kev did the things that other players can’t do, and I mean in general football, not just our team. But he has got to maintain that consistency in his performances.
“He is not going to play like that every week, that level of quality. But doing the basics well, working for the team, his effort has got to be consistent. When he does that he’s a top player and we know we have a player who can help win us games.
“But by no means are we going to be a one-man team. We have some really good players in there. We probably had three players playing their first game since last season – Callum Slattery, Bevis Mugabi and Liam Donnelly, his first league game in a year. So the signs are good but we have got to keep working to keep that quality on the pitch.”
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