Mar 24 2011 By Graham Barnstaple, Hamilton Advertiser
Kilmarnock 3 - 1 Motherwell
MOTHERWELL boss Stuart McCall slammed his side’s "lack of belief" for a thumping defeat in Kilmarnock on Saturday.
The Fir Park side had started well and scored a superb opener, but Killie had turned the tables by half-time – partly with the aid of a controversial penalty – before sealing the points just six minutes into the second half.
While McCall pointed out that Motherwell had lost Stevie Hammell to a training-ground hamstring injury, striker Francis Jeffers broke down in the warm-up and Steven Saunders had to bow out early – he admitted that a lack of belief after Kilmarnock had gone 3-1 up was what ultimately cost them the game.
He said: "I can make excuses for them but what I can’t find acceptable is the lack of belief after the third goal that we could get back in the game.
"It was from the third goal on that concerned me, the lack of belief we seemed to have, and from then on Kilmarnock played with a freedom. Goals change games and we were disappointed to lose the goal from a penalty just before half-time, but we still felt at that point we could get back into the game.
"When you get beat with a simple corner it’s not good enough, with the height we have in our team. The most disappointing thing was the lack of reaction after the third goal, and whether that is to do with the number of young players or not I don’t know."
Motherwell took the lead inside 15 minutes when Tom Hateley sent Chris Humphrey darting past Tim Clancy on the right before delivering a low cross for John Sutton to expertly flick in at the front post.
The big English striker was unlucky minutes later when his header from a Steve Jennings cross beat the keeper but bounced clear off the post.
Motherwell were made to pay for that minutes later when Kilmarnock equalised. Alexei Eremenko was given too much space on the right to ping a perfect cross in for Manuel Pascali to head past Darren Randolph.
Killie took the lead in controversial circumstances when Gavin Gunning and Pascali went up for a high ball and landed seemingly innocuously, but referee Mike Tumilty decided that the Motherwell man was guilty of a push and pointed to the spot, where Jamie Hamill blasted the ball low to Randolph’s right.
Both sides knew the first goal of the second half would be crucial, and Kilmarnock bagged it with just six minutes on the clock when Eremenko sent a corner to the front post where Liam Kelly beat Randolph too easily to head in.
That effectively signalled game-over and in truth Motherwell would have been beaten more heavily but for a string of fine saves from Randolph.
Motherwell now face a test to cling on to their hopes of a top-six finish with only three games remaining before the split.
MOTHERWELL: Randolph, Saunders (Forbes 8, Casagolda, 78), Hutchinson, Craigan, Page (Jones, 55), Humphrey, Jennings, Hateley, Gunning, Sutton, Murphy. Subs (not used): Hollis, Meechan, Pollock.