As someone who is paid to follow Motherwell FC home and away, I can honestly say that there’s no need for incessant doom and gloom among Fir Park followers about the performance in Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Celtic at Parkhead, writes Craig Goldthorp.
Sure, the loss ended a fantastic run of six straight league wins for ’Well, but I genuinely think that the controversy of Gboly Ariyibi’s goal for the Steelmen – for whom James Scott failed to return the ball after Celtic had put it out of play so Ryan Christie could get treatment – is in danger of overshadowing the fact that the visitors actually played very well.
I’ve sat through several roastings for ’Well at the home of Scotland’s champions in recent seasons (including a 7-0 battering under previous gaffer Mark McGhee in May 2016 which could easily have been double figures) so I know just how one sided these games can be, hardly surprising given that Celtic’s overall resources and budget must be about 100 times that of the Steelmen.
But Sunday’s contest was entirely different, with Motherwell competing extremely well until they suffered the body blow of losing defender Tom Aldred – outstanding all season – to a 23rd minute head injury.
Bloodied Aldred’s absence clearly rocked the away defence, with Celtic dominating the rest of the opening 45 minutes and scoring twice through Scott Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard.
Then came the controversial ’Well goal on 51 minutes and it was clearly game on as the atmosphere among home fans became increasingly poisonous towards referee Kevin Clancy and the visiting players.
To their credit, Motherwell bucked the trend of provincial teams going to Parkhead and ‘parking the bus’ by proceeding to boss long spells of the game as the rattled Hoops were pinned back.
Then came a second body blow for the Steelmen on 78 minutes, as Aldred’s replacement Carl McHugh also sustained a bad head knock and had to go off and was replaced by Liam Donnelly.
The Celtic fans subsequently posting vile social media comments on Sunday night about Motherwell’s perceived unsporting conduct at Ariyibi’s goal will hopefully be equally appalled at the behaviour of thousands of their own fans who chanted gleefully as McHugh – who had been knocked unconscious – was carried off on a stretcher.
And that wasn’t the only thing which left a bad taste in my mouth.
Instead of celebrating their team going eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership again after convincingly seeing off the spirited Steelmen 4-1, the immediate reaction of thousands of home supporters at the final whistle was to mercilessly boo Clancy as he trotted off the park.
I’m sure the atmosphere will be less tempestuous as Motherwell visit Kilmarnock on league duty tomorrow (Wednesday). A similar ’Well display will give them a good chance of a win.