Stephen Robinson: No reason why Motherwell can’t stay third into New Year

Stephen Robinsons team have won 11 league games already this season
Stephen Robinsons team have won 11 league games already this season

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson thinks his high flying Motherwell troops have every chance of remaining in the Europa League first qualifying round spot after their final two league games of 2019.

The Steelmen moved above Aberdeen into third place in the Scottish Premiership after Jake Carroll’s fine free-kick goal earned them a vital 1-0 success at Kilmarnock on Saturday.

“I’ll be absolutely delighted,” Robinson said.

“We’re third, we’ve got two tough games.

“We’re going up to Ross County next where I’ve got the utmost respect for the coaching staff and the ownership up there as well.

“We have to be at our best. We can’t play 70 per cent and win football matches.

“We need to be right at our very best. We need to keep pushing people.

“There were some super performances against Killie, including Mark O’Hara and Jake Carroll.

“Richard Tait’s waiting in the background ready to play as well.

“If we continue with those type of performances and showing the resilience we did today then there’s no reason why we can’t stay there.”

Motherwell and their Ayrshire opponents were evenly matched for most of Saturday’s game at Rugby Park but the Steelmen emerged victorious.

“I didn’t think there was a whole lot between the two sides,” Robinson said.

“I thought we started brighter. I thought we had a lot of the ball and a few chances went across the box that we didn’t finish.

“And then they started to come into the game.

“If you’re going to come here and get results and be where we are in the table you’ve got to be resilient.

“I thought we showed that today. I thought our back foir were excellent.

“I thought Mark O’Hara for his first start in midfield was very good as well.

“A bit of quality wins the game, probably the difference between the two sides.”

Goalkeeper Mark Gillespie was a hero for ’Well with some fine saves as Killie ramped up the pressure late on.

Robinson said: “Saves that I expect him to make.

“Mark’s a very good goalkeeper and he has to be to keep Trevor Carson out of the team at the moment.

“What we’ve got now is a competition. People know they can’t rest on their laurels. They can’t down tools and think that they’re going to play as was shown today.

“Mark O’Hara comes in and gives me another selection problem.

“We’ve got a decent squad. We need to keep pushing.

“We can’t take anything for granted and continue to stay where we are.”

Robbo revealed that Liam Donnelly – replaced by Liam Polworth after 44 minutes – had sustained a hamstring injury which makes him a doubt to face Ross County in the away Scottish Premiership fixture tomorrow (Thursday), kick-off 3pm.

The gaffer added: “Donnelly just felt his hamstring, he hasn’t torn it.

“So we took him off straight away because it’s one of those you can be out six weeks.

“We’ll assess him over the next couple of days. I would imagine he’ll be a doubt at the moment for Boxing Day.

“But you never know for the derby (Motherwell round off their 2019 league campaign at home to local rivals Hamilton Accies at Fir Park this Sunday, 3pm kick-off).”

Robbo was asked whether it was frustrating to see Chris Long’s second half ‘goal’ chalked off when the striker tapped the ball into the net after the ball had been sent towards goal by team-mate Jermaine Hylton.

“I don’t know if it was going in or not,” the Northern Irish gaffer added.

“I’m not sure, we’ve had a couple disallowed like that. I have to give Willie (referee Collum) the benefit of the doubt.

“We should have gone through and scored as well. The keeper makes a great save from Liam Polworth that would have killed the game off.

“But it wouldn’t be Motherwell if we didn’t make it exciting right until the last minute.”