Sports Comment: Give me Fir Park thriller over dull English Premiership fare every time

Peter Hartley forces Motherwell's dramatic last gasp equaliser over the Rangers goal-line (Pic by Ian McFadyen)
Peter Hartley forces Motherwell's dramatic last gasp equaliser over the Rangers goal-line (Pic by Ian McFadyen)

It’s official: Us Scottish football fans are generally too critical of our own product, writes Craig Goldthorp.

Too often, we belittle our domestic soccer while lauding the billionaire English Premiership down south.

But give me this thrilling 3-3 draw at Fir Park – which excited over 9500 watching fans and millions of BT Sport viewers around the world – over English snore fests like the ultra defensive Newcastle United against Chelsea, played in a library-like atmosphere, which Sky Sports screened the same afternoon.

But enough dwelling on an English top flight which has largely lost its identity to the average working class fan by becoming too rich and too full of foreign players, managers and owners.

Instead, let’s praise the brave gladiators of Motherwell and Rangers who produced this all action, enthralling, ultra competitive Fir Park rip snorter which was played in an electric atmosphere and quite literally had you on the edge of your seat.

The first half was outstanding, although I admit that the quality of some of the defending and goalkeeping did leave a little bit to be desired!

Rangers had gone into the game unbeaten under new messiah Steven Gerrard, but the Ibrox giants were stunned within two minutes when Danny Johnson took advantage of defender Connor Goldson’s slip to latch onto Chris Cadden’s long ball and lob the ball home over keeper Allan McGregor, who also seemed to slip.

The action was unrelenting, with the end to end stuff almost reminiscent of a basketball match.

Rangers roared back into contention, with Kyle Lafferty’s deflected shot bringing them an equaliser before the Steelmen regained their lead within two minutes when the impressive Gael Bigirimana’s long free-kick was headed home by Carl McHugh who celebrated enthusiastically in front of a South Stand packed with away fans.

But Motherwell’s rearguard wasn’t having the greatest day and they were posted missing as James Tavernier’s 37th minute cross from the right was nodded home unchallenged by Lafferty.

The Rangers fans were in great voice and they went ballistic three minutes from the break when the skilful Ovie Ejaria cut inside and scored with a shot which Carson failed to deal with as it spun off his hand and into the opposite corner.

Motherwell then largely bossed the second half, forcing several corners and bossing possession.

Although they powered forward at every opportunity and cranked up the pressure by bringing on attacking subs Conor Sammon, Ryan Bowman and Elliott Frear, it seemed that Well were going to suffer a third defeat out of three and remain bottom of the Scottish Premiership standings.

The hosts still trailed in the third and final minute of injury time, but there was to be one dramatic and incredible final twist at the death.

Yet another Bigirimana corner wasn’t dealt with by the Rangers goalkeeper or defence and Peter Hartley – a hate figure among Rangers fans after his ill advised pre-match comments saying how he laughed when Gers defender Fabio Cardoso had his nose broken by Bowman in last season’s Betfred Cup semi-final – stabbed the ball home from close range with virtually the final kick to earn Well a deserved point.

Although the Newcastle-Chelsea game livened up late on and finished 2-1 for the visitors, the overall spectacle still wasn’t a patch on what I witnessed at Fir Park.