Our third place finish in season 2007/8 earned a place in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup. For the first time in 13 years we were off on a European Tour.
The team, under Mark McGhee’s leadership, ‘did it for Phil’ and secured a magnificent 60 point total in the league. There were wonderful celebrations following the last game of the season (a 1-1 draw with Rangers at Fir Park) and the East Stand bounced with sombreros and beach balls adding to the colourful scene.
We were drawn with Nancy and a new generation of Motherwell fans set about joining the old hands on the trip to France. After a ticket scare and a fiasco as they were distributed, around two 2,000 made it to the Stade Marcel-Picot after a day centred in the Place Stanislas.
Although we succeeded in keeping the tie alive our performance was a disappointment. We set out to defend and were fortunate to return home with only a one goal deficit. Here is the FirParkCorner match report.
A couple of spectacular second half saves from Graeme Smith kept Motherwell in the UEFA Cup with hopes still alive. The first leg was lost 1-0 but we have two weeks to plan for the return leg at Fir Park.
At least 2,000 claret and amber fans marched in procession from the town centre to Nancy's Marcel-Picot stadium and they gave the team tremendous support.
Mark McGhee stuck to his pre-match promise and set out a side which was designed to frustrate the home team. There were two changes from the last outing; Malcolm and Fitzpatrick were preferred to Porter and McGarry. The result was a 4-1-4-1 formation with Sutton having the thankless task of being the lone striker.
It was obvious early on that we rarely adopt this defensive strategy and the players looked uncomfortable. Clearances were rushed and aimless and on the rare occasions when Sutton got his head to the ball there was no support.
Almost all of the first period was spent in our half and, for the most part, there was little threat. Thoughts of reaching the break without loss were in the minds of the fans when Berenguer's well taken header found the net. We could hardly complain at the loss.
The second half started with an urgency which had been missing earlier. We earned our first corner and made a few incursions into the Nancy eighteen yard box but their 'keeper had no save to make. Clarkson had a half hearted penalty claim denied.
The hosts made a couple of attacking substitutions, one of them introducing Fortune to the game. He soon made an impact and Smith was called into action.
With twenty five minutes remaining we switched to 4-4-2 when Darren Smith and Porter replaced Sutton and Malcolm. Before the change had the desired effect Smith had to produce a couple of great saves. The first was a finger tip touch at full stretch to a long range effort and the second was an excellent penalty stop after Reynolds had fouled inside the box.
The team took the lead from the 'keeper's actions and we saw Motherwell in familiar attacking mode. Clarkson fired high with what was to be our only goal scoring effort. Murphy replaced the tiring number ten as the game reached the final stage.
The Slovakian referee brought the game to a close and the fans cheered the team off the park with the realisation that the tie is still in the balance. The second leg is at Fir Park in a fortnight and you can be assured that we will not start with a defensive formation.