Motherwell’s road to the League Cup final has not been easy. Following routine progress from the group stage, three Premiership rivals had to be dispatched to earn the prize of a gala day at the National Stadium.
Many top flight clubs view the early stage of the Betfred Cup as a warm-up to the new league campaign. It takes place in July and offers a chance for newly formed squads to have some competitive action as part of pre-season training. But the pace picks up when the teams with UEFA involvement are added to the pot.
The holiday season was in full swing when Motherwell started the campaign. In front of 1,590 fans at Hampden we eased our way into the competition with a 5-1 win. More than a few raised the hope that this was would not be our only visit to the famous old stadium.
On the pristine Fir Park surface, with new faces now looking more familiar, we continued of free-scoring progress with a win against Morton. The Championship side were the biggest threat in the group and the win was an early suggestion that the squad was beginning to gel.
A first visit to Ainslie Park (City were displaced to the home of Spartans) proved to be a difficult evening. The part-timers kept us at bay then scored on the break midway through the second half. A quick equaliser and a goal in the 89th minute saved our blushes.
The group had already been won but a seeded place in the next round was not yet guaranteed. The visitors dug in and were not breached until the second half. The score did not reflect the balance of play but we were able to look forward to the knockout stage with confidence.
The draw sent us to Dingwall on a sunny Wednesday in August. It was a finely balanced game and level after regulation time. A nail biting extra half hour produced a goal for both teams but with penalties looking likely a composed finish from MacLean sent us home happy.
Robinson’s boys ruffled a few feathers when a brilliant performance saw much fancied Aberdeen tossed from the competition. We dominated the game from start to finish and now had a semi-final place.
We had not beaten Rangers in a knockout competition since the famous 5-2 win in 1961 so the wild celebrations when Moult sealed the game with a beautiful lob were fully justified. We were now in the final.
Motherwell v Celtic
On Sunday 29 November we will return to Hampden for a third time this season hoping to get our hands on the trophy we have won only once before, in 1950.