Football returns to Fir Park this weekend with the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. This stage of the competition fills fans all over the country with renewed optimism as they hope that their team will be one of the 16 to progress to the next round.
Motherwell have already enjoyed a profitable cup run this season as the three trips to Hampden on League Cup duty testify. Hamilton provide the first obstacle if we are to return to the national stadium.
Our success rate at this stage in the competition has been an embarrassment in recent seasons. We have recorded only one win in Scottish Cup in the last five seasons.
Despite a Louis Moult goal giving us the advantage with 15 minutes remaining we managed to concede twice in the last six minutes. The game contained all the highs and lows that are the lot of a ‘Well fan. Jubilation came with Moult’s header and the realisation that we might, at long last, defeat the Ibrox side in a cup competition but half an hour later we trudged home beaten.
The luck of the draw presented us with Highland League opposition and a home tie. More than 300 away fans gave their team a rousing welcome but their thin expectations were snuffed out in the first minute when Moult’s header hit the net. We were four up by the break and won by five.
A first half goal from Ojamaa had us up at the break in front of a 5,000 crowd at Fir Park but two headers sealed our fate as United dominated the second period. The defeat left us, yet again, with nothing to concentrate on but the league and we were to survive only after a play-off.
This historic humiliation will surely remain as the worst defeat ever suffered by any Motherwell team. For the first time we lost a competitive game to the wee Rovers and at a time when the supposed gulf between the teams could not have been wider. Manager McCall not only fielded an under strength eleven but he paraded an under strength list of substitutes naming five instead of the seven allowed. Our opponents were given permission to switch the tie from Cliftonhill to New Douglas Park and their goal in the 90th minute, by which time it was abundantly clear that we were incapable of breaching their defence, prompted disbelief at grounds all over Scotland.
Murphy’s goal at Pittodrie ten minutes from time should have won the tie but a last gasp equaliser earned Aberdeen a replay. We failed to turn up for the return and the Dons earned the right to face Hibs in the next round. That ended our season’s involvement in cup competitions; 2x Champions League, 2x Europa League, 1x League Cup and 2x Scottish Cup, all without a win.
The fifth round draw for this season’s competition will follow the Hearts v Hibs tie on Sunday 21 January. We will hope to be more than spectators.