Season Review (Fourth bit)

Last updated : 18 June 2005 By Firparkcorner

Indeed, such was the high spirits that even a 0-0 draw at Dunfermline, a game which was an embarrassment to football, was greeted as being a valuable away point. We then dispatched the equally dire Dundee United at Fir Park before dropping a stupid two points at Livi. We were 1-0 up, missed enough chance to win two games then lost a late equaliser to a deflection. With the cup final just a week away, Terry Butcher made the decision to rest a few of the older players for this match. Gordon Marshall was obviously given a break and when Terry said he had a mild illness after the game nobody paid much attention.

Great day for the fans, not so much the players...
The build up to the cup final was amazing. 17,000 Motherwell fans were going to Hampden and it seemed that all of them were wearing ‘live the dream’ wristbands that the club were selling. For once the club had spotted a good opportunity and moved decisively to take advantage of it! We were facing Rangers for the first time in a cup final and most people assumed our name was on the cup, conveniently forgetting the fact that Rangers had us in their pockets for months of previous encounters and we were likely to struggle on a big pitch. Still, even if you were being negative, you’d have thought it unlikely we’d lose a goal inside three minute to Maurice Ross! When they made it two shortly afterwards - with Marsh nowhere for both goals – humiliation beckoned. Remarkably though, we steadied the ship somewhat and Partridge pulled one back. Now, had we gone into half time at 2-1 we would still have been in with a chance. Naturally then we lost another preventable goal give minutes before the break. Okay, keep it tight now, try to sneak one and then go for it in the last fifteen of the game. A fine plan but one which was destroyed when Novo scored to make it 4-1 at the start of the second period. The final score was 5-1 and to be honest if they’d needed to score ten they probably could have done. They played well, we just didn’t show up. The big players we needed to be strong all had nightmares. Still, they were our team and they had done tremendously well in getting there. The vast majority of the fans stayed to the end to clap the team who, rather sheepishly, came to acknowledge us afterwards

Rangers took us apart at Fir Park again a fortnight later although we did score a couple of late goals to keep it respectable. The top six place was right up for grabs now with ourselves and Kilmarnock being joined by Inverness who had gone on an astonishing run. Then we produced one of the performances of the season with a 3-1 success at Pittodrie. Both Jim Hamilton and Scott McDonald scored wonderful goals and we were within touching distance.

Combe scores! Top six here we come.
Due to the goal difference situation a single goal defeat mid-week in Inverness would almost guarantee us a top half place. We managed that but little more as Marshall was sent off in a 1-0 loss. Kilmarnock’s own dropped points had eliminated them which meant that a point against them when they came to Fir Park on the last pre-split game. Even a defeat would do assuming Inverness weren’t also beating Dundee by a barrel load. The match at Fir Park was edgy but the visitors took the lead with a wonderful free kick. Inverness then made things very tense by going 3-0 up against Dundee. One more goal for either them or Killie would knock us out the top half. Thankfully we could breath a huge sigh of relief when Dundee got one back and then another. With only minutes left in each game we were safe and we confirmed things with a hilarious own goal. Craigan took a long throw – having extended his run up by walking into the East Stand – Combe ran into his own defender then palmed the ball into the net. 1-1 we were home and dry. The players and fans celebrated at the end. A cup final and a top six place was a good season. But could we now show we belonged in the top half rather than make up the numbers like last time?