The second half of 2017 delivered contrasting fortunes. We surprised many with an impressive start to the season but by the approach of Hogmanay we were struggling.
Stephen Robinson’s new look team embarked on a long and fruitful Betfred Cup campaign with the first of several visits to Hampden. Queen’s Park were duly dispatched as the season got off to a winning start.
Celebrations as Moult puts Rangers to the sword at Hampden
The transfer window closed with the addition of Hartley and Grimshaw and the loss, for a decent fee, of Heneghan to Sheffield United. The coffers were further swelled with the news that Marvin Johnson’s sell-on fee was to pay out following his move from Oxford to Middlesbrough. It was suggested that we profited by almost £1m for the pair.
There was much relief that Cadden and Moult were still with us. The board weighed up an offer from Aberdeen for the striker but gambled that we would be better to cash in at the next window. It was a brilliant decision and Louis thrilled us with some spectacular goals before we agreed a £500K deal with Preston at the year end.
John Swinburne's passing was marked ahead our our match against Hibs in October. Scott Leitch left his post at the Academy in December.
The League Cup group stage was won in style. The Well Society invited some local Syrian refugees to Fir Park for our tie with Berwick Rangers, a move that was widely welcomed. We made progress in the knockout stage with an extra-time win in Dingwall before an excellent performance dispatched Aberdeen. That earned us a semi-final meeting with Rangers. What a day! We managed not to concede in the first half and took the lead when Moult ended a scramble in the six yard box with a shot high into the net. Better was to come when he produced a sublime long range lob to seal the win with 15 minutes to spare. We had our third trip to Hampden on 16 November when Celtic lifted the trophy after a 2-0 win.
Hampden in claret and amber for the final
The final was sandwiched between two league fixtures against the same opponents. The week was a turning point in the season. Until then we were established in the top half of the table with an impressive 8 wins, 1 draw and 5 losses. Following that bruising week injuries piled up as the physical and mental drain took effect.
We came within a few minutes of ending Celtic’s long unbeaten run at Fir Park but had to settle for a point before fatigue caught up and we lost 5-1 at Parkhead.
Then followed losses to Hearts, Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock, a draw with Dundee, before the year ended with defeats from Rangers, and embarrassingly, Hamilton after we had taken an early lead. To add to the misery Hartley got himself a red card after the final whistle.
The winter break offered welcome relief. We had a long, long injury list and, as Louis Moult delivered his farewells, an ineffective strike force. At the end of October we were comfortably placed in the top half of the table but by December’s end we were in eighth place only four points above the play-off spot. Pressure was building on the manager to find the talent needed to end our plunge.
The club AGM took place in December and thanks to combination of transfer income and sell-on bonuses our chairman Jim McMahon beamed at the prospect of cash in the bank. The idea of renewing the PA system and installing a video scoreboard was raised though funds had to be set aside for replacement firepower.