With Northern Irish manager Stephen Robinson still in tow after finishing third in the Scottish Premiership in the coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season, it was fitting that the Steelmen were paired with two sides from his home country in their opening two European fixtures.
With one legged ties only being played due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Motherwell comfortably saw off Glentoran 5-1 at Fir Park thanks to second half goals by Callum Lang, Stephen O’Donnell, Liam Polworth, Tony Watt and Chris Long.
Glentoran – who had been doing well until losing Seanan Clucas to a red card on 52 minutes, netted an injury time penalty through Robbie McDaid.
Robbo’s troops then moved onto a trip to Coleraine, where Lang and Watt had them 2-0 up before two second half penalties by Ben Doherty – the second in the last minute – took the game to extra time.
’Well were furious that Bevis Mugabi was sent off in the last minute for a soft foul on Eoin Bradley that led to the second penalty.
With no further goals in extra time, ’Well keeper Trevor Carson was the penalty shootout hero as he saved three spot kicks and goals by O'Donnell, Watt and Mark O'Hara took the visitors through 3-0 on penalties.
’Well’s bold run came to a crunching halt in the third qualifying round when goals by Miguel Vitor, Josue Pesqueira (penalty) and Elton Acolatse condemned them to a 3-0 loss to Hapoel Beer-Sheva in Israel. Declan Gallagher was dismissed for the visitors for giving away the penalty which Pesqueira converted.
The Steelmen’s lineups in those three European ties were:
Motherwell v Glentoran (h), Aug 27: Carson, Grimshaw (Seedorf 60), Lamie, Campbell, O’Hara, Mugabi, Polworth, Lang (Watt 70), Gallagher, O’Donnell (Robinson 82), Long.
Motherwell v Coleraine (a), Sep 17: Carson, O’Hara, Lamie, Mugabi, McGinley (Seedorf 65), Lang (Hastie 87), Gallagher, O’Donnell, Campbell (Long 91), Watt, Polworth (Maguire 87).
Hapoel v Motherwell, Sep 24: Carson, Campbell, Grimshaw, Lamie, McGinley, Gallagher, Long (Lang 72), O’Donnell, O’Hara, Polworth (Maguire 86), Watt (White 75).
While the European run was respectable, ’Well struggled in the Premiership with no wins in their opening six league games before an Allan Campbell goal gave them a crucial 1-0 home win over St Johnstone.
Although wins at Aberdeen (3-0), at home to Ross County (4-0) and away to Livingston (2-0) lifted spirits, ’Well continued to sweat about relegation as they failed to win in their final eight league games of 2020 and boss Robinson resigned.