After an encouraging start to season 2019/20 Motherwell were firmly established in the top half of the table. A busy December lay ahead.
The seven game run between St Andrews’ Day and Boxing Day delivered fifteen points and enable targets to be altered. With league safety all but assured a place in the Europa League was achievable as the new year arrived.
Wins over St Johnstone, St Mirren, Hearts, Kilmarnock and Ross County sent us into the winter break in a strengthened position and only losses to Rangers and a disappointing home defeat to Hamilton spoiled the entry to 2020.
James Scott moved to Hull for a £1.5m fee and Casper Sloth departed. Mikael Mdjoli and Rolando Aarons joined on loan.
Football resumed with a 3-0 Scottish Cup win at Dens Park. Chris Long grabbed the headlines with his hat-trick and we were rewarded with a fifth round tie with St Mirren. The Saints earned a replay and a night under the Paisley floodlights ended our interest in the knockout. Despite a brave fight back from a 4-1 half-time score-line we lost the penalty shootout.
The pandemic was to restrict the season to thirty fixtures and only nine were completed after the break. Despite starting the year with a vital 1-0 win at Pittodrie we had a dip in form and struggled to find the net.
A couple of draws and four losses should have worsened our place in the table but the others failed to take advantage. The season ended with a home win over Ross County and a draw at Tynecastle. A keenly awaited showdown with Aberdeen was cancelled hours ahead of the Friday night kick-off and football, along with the rest of the country, was on lockdown.
A huge cheer greeted the return of David Turnbull to the pitch when he came off the bench for twenty minutes against St Mirren. We threw the match away but the compensation that is likely to follow the midfielder’s contract extension lifted spirits.
We held on to third place. Had Motherwell fans been offered a top six berth at the start of the season it would have been grabbed. More points (24) were earned on the road than at Fir Park (22).
Stephen Robinson had become the target of speculation for the vacant management job in Northern Ireland. His performance at Motherwell in the last few years made him a prime candidate but as the season was called he remained in post.
Fans and owners were generous in subscribing to season ticket renewals and in support of other fund raisers. The Well Society kept a low profile through the months of bickering but it may yet canvas its membership as future plans are developed.
We have qualified for the Europa League for the first time in six years but uncertainty is the legacy that the truncated season offers. Football will return eventually but under what conditions?