MOTHERWELL secured European football next season after coming from behind to beat SPL champions Celtic on Sunday.
The game at Fir Park was delayed by 15 minutes after an advertising hoarding on the South Stand came loose in the high winds.
When the action did get underway Shaun Hutchinson earned a booking after just two minutes for a foul on Georgios Samaras, but he went on to have a fine game at the back for ’Well.
The wind was playing havoc and when Tom Hateley couldn’t get the ball to stay still at a corner, he knocked it to short to James McFadden before Hutchinson came within inches of making contact with the cross at the back post.
McFadden then slalomed past three Celtic defenders, but his right foot finish let him down.
At the other end Samaras played a neat one-two with Tomas Rogic and fed the ball into the near post, but Gary Hooper knocked wide.
Darren Randolph pulled off two great stops, diving full length to push away a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick and then denying Hooper from point blank range.
’Well had a major appeal for a penalty turn down when Thomas Rogne appeared to handle in the box and five minutes from the break Celtic took the lead.
Tony Watt burst down the left and clipped the ball over Randolph as the ‘keeper came charging out to meet him. HOOPER had the simple task of nodding into the empty net and, although he hit the bar, made no mistake on the rebound.
However, ’Well were level just before the break. Keith Lasley showed wonderful control in midfield to set HENRIK OJAMAA free and from the edge of the box he beat Fraser Forster with a low shot.
Five minutes into the second half and the match was turned on its head as ’Well went in front.
Mulgrew bundled over Ojamaa in the box, prompting referee Euan Norris to point the spot, and MICHAEL HIGDON coolly stepped up to pass the ball into the top corner.
In the week he was named on the shortlist for PFA player of the year, Higdon relished the moment, which made it 26 goals for the season.
After another five minutes it was 3-1 as Hateley crossed into the box and Mikael Lustig headed towards his own goal under pressure from Higdon.The ball hit the foot of the post rebounded off FORSTER’S shoulder and into the net.
There was nearly another goal as Chris Humphrey’s shot hit Emilio Izaguirre and threatened to loop over Forster, but the big ’keeper backpedalled enough to claw it away.
It seemed inevitable the hosts would score again and McFadden should have made it 4-1 as Ojamaa sent McFadden clear, but he showed a strange lack of composure and blasted the ball straight at Forster.
Neil Lennon sent on Anthony Stokes to try to salvage something and he came close in injury time as his shot beat Randolph, but came back off the post.
Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell, Law (Higginbotham 92), Hutchinson, Hateley, Humphrey, OJamaa (Francis-Angol 89), Higdon, Lalsey, Ramsden, McFadden (Carswell 85). Subs not used: Hollis, McHugh, Kerr, Cummins.
Celtic: Forster, Izaguirre, Samaras (Stokes 79), Rogic (McGeough 73), Mulgrew, Lustig, Rogne (McCourt 67), Watt, Kayal, Wanyama, Hooper. Subs not used: Zaluska, Gershon, Keatings, Atajic.
Referee: Euan Norris.