Motherwell can’t begin to feel safe in the Scottish Premiership until their place in the division is mathematically secured says Stephen O’Donnell.
The Scotland international was stand-in captain again for Graham Alexander’s side but after positive wins against Hibs and Livingston, Motherwell were beaten 4-1 by Kilmarnock on Saturday, who came into the game against the Fir Park club bottom.
Motherwell have also lost 4-1 to Hamilton Accies and 3-0 to St Johnstone in recent weeks and O’Donnell says safety isn’t guaranteed, despite sitting seven points clear of the relegation places heading into the split.
He said: “Until it’s mathematically impossible for you to go down, I don’t think there’s one team who can claim that they’re safe because we’re all capable of taking points off each other. That’s the excitement of the split for the neutral but, hopefully, we won’t be involved at the death.
“It’s the same in the top half where you can be fighting for third place and end up in sixth. We need to react positively to this and I‘m sure that we will. We can still finish this campaign well, but that wasn’t the case here.
“I couldn’t have imagined it ending 4-1 but we just need to take this as a wake-up call because we’d been on a good wee run. Before that, when we were under pressure, there had been a lot of hype about how bad we were. We answered our critics then but we need to make sure that we don’t drop our standards and we maybe did that a wee bit in that second half.
“We have a three-week break now before the league restarts but we need to rectify this in our next game, whoever that’s against. I hope we end up with three home fixtures after the split.”
O’Donnell wasn’t pleased with a penalty decision that went against him with the game at 1-1. Killie defender Brandon Haunstrup appeared to bring the former Kilmarnock right-back down in the box but Alan Muir said it wasn’t a penalty, Motherwell going on to ship three more goals.
It could have changed the game according to O’Donnell: “I think it was a penalty. I don’t dive particularly well. In fact, I’m not a diver: I don’t know how to do it. I’ve never been taught how to throw myself to the ground.
“There was a nudge on my back and that’s a foul anywhere else on the park. If we go in 2-1 up at the interval it’s a different story but these things happen and games change on decisions like that but we were still in the game at that stage and it doesn’t explain our second-half performance. For us, that’s a big three points dropped.”
O’Donnell now joins up with Scotland for three World Cup 2022 qualifiers but insists Motherwell will be in the back of his mind: “It’s nice to go away with the national team and it’s always a privilege to do so but this defeat will still be hurting when I join up with the rest of the lads.
“There will be plenty of time to mull over it and club football is always at the back of your mind but by the time the match against Austria comes up I’ll have something else to think about.”
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.