Having had a few days to digest Motherwell's crucial 2-1 derby win at Hamilton Accies, the Motherwell Times feels that the injury-hit Steelmen have done remarkably well to be sitting so far above the Scottish Premiership's relegation zone, writes Craig Goldthorp.
Despite having a mammoth 13 players out injured or suspended against Accies, Motherwell battled to a victory in which everyone played well and two were outstanding.
The positive result in 'Well's final game before a three-week winter break puts the ninth placed Fir Park side a whopping 11 points ahead of bottom club Dundee.
Motherwell are also nine ahead of second bottom St Mirren who occupy the relegation play-off spot and seven ahead of 10th placed Accies.
With Ryan Bowman now departed for Exeter City and the prospect of the potential loan signing of Ross McCormack, optimism is high that the Steelmen can have a productive second half of the season starting with a home William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round clash against Ross County on Saturday, January 19.
In that Lanarkshire derby win in their final match of 2018, two-goal hero centre half Tom Aldred and skilful, lightning quick winger Elliott Frear were both standouts on the artificial surface at Accies’ Hope Stadium.
Aldred’s brace in either half – in which he shot home emphatically after dead ball deliveries from Frear – were finishes worthy of a striker.
The irony of this quality was not lost on some Motherwell followers who for large parts of this season have endured watching our much maligned forwards struggle to hit a barn door with a banjo.
It wasn’t just going forward where Aldred impressed, as he also defended solidly in an impressive looking backline also reinforced by the presence of Peter Hartley.
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson said post match: “Tom Aldred’s two goals were very good and very surprising. I was delighted.
“He was excellent at both ends.
“Tom will take all the glory. He’s been excellent for me since he came in and he deserves a lot of credit.
“Peter Hartley gave us a settling influence and a bit of organisation for a young squad.”
If Aldred was brilliant on the day, then Elliott Frear was exceptional.
In addition to providing both deliveries for the goals, he scampered productively down the left wing throughout and sent over numerous inviting crosses which more confident forwards would have made more of.
Conor Sammon and Danny Johnson battled away well up top, but it’s clear the Steelmen could be doing with January reinforcements in that area.
The sight of Aston Villa striker McCormack – currently on loan to Australian side Central Coast Mariners – sitting next to ’Well chief executive Alan Burrows in the Main Stand was a welcome one as McCormack on top of his game would be a major asset if he is signed on loan this month.
If Frear keeps playing like this, a striker of McCormack’s calibre is brought in and ’Well’s crippling injury list eases, watch out for the Steelmen flying in the second half of this season.
Gaffer Robbo said of Frear: “Elliott was excellent, really really good.
“I thought he was good in the Killie game as well.
“In fairness to Elliott, any time I’ve played 3-5-2 it’s probably a system that doesn’t suit him or a diamond.
“And when he plays higher up there without too much defensive responsibility then he’s excellent for us.
“So he’s definitely an asset if we play that way.”
Another undoubted plus from last Saturday for the Steelmen was the terrific backing Motherwell received from 2250 travelling supporters, who considerably outnumbered the home crowd.
“The fans were terrific and got right behind the boys,” Robinson said.
“We showed bravery on the ball, we were disciplined and I thought we deserved the result.”