'We want to push for Euro spot' - Motherwell boss Graham Alexander challenges his players as post-split fixtures are announced
Second half goals by Callum Slattery and Rickie Lamie – the latter being scored in the third minute of injury time – earned the Steelmen a 2-2 draw at Livingston on Saturday which scraped them into the top half at their hosts’ expense.
Motherwell – on 40 points from 33 games going into the split – are now only a point adrift of fourth place and with it guaranteed Europa Conference League football, while even fifth spot could be enough to secure a trip to the continent if Hibernian do not win the Scottish Cup.
Post-split fixtures released today (Monday) revealed that Motherwell have two home games against Rangers (Sunday, April 24) and Hearts (Wednesday, May 11) and away fixtures against Dundee United (Saturday, April 30), Ross County (Saturday, May 7) and Celtic (Saturday, May 14).
Gaffer Alexander, who had recently been under fire from a section of the club’s fans after an 11-game winless league run in 2022 before recording a much needed 4-2 home win over St Mirren the previous weekend, said: “It’s now down to the players and their mentality what they want to do. Celebrate now as if the season is finished and we’re content with top six, or push it and go for that European spot.
“You saw their mentality on Saturday and last week. Even when going through the run we were on; coming from behind to win points, 2-0 down to Rangers, drew 2-2.
“The character is brilliant. We don’t have to offer more incentives. They want to win anyway. There are two marker posts and the first judgement point is the split.
“Now we have another one at the end of the season.
“Last year we were looking over our shoulders with a few games to go.
“To not be in that position this year is a relief.
“We are happy with that but the boys will want to achieve a little bit more.
“The league tells you we have made progress.
“We had ambitions and targets. Last year it was staying up, and this year it was top-six.”
With Motherwell’s top six berth now secured, Alexander outlined his delight to MFC TV: “It feels brilliant. We thought we’d chucked it away.
"We’ve had a difficult run and then we’ve put ourselves in a great position last week and we didn’t really perform well (at Livingston).
"I thought Livingston were the better team for most of the game.
“But I thought we stayed in there even at 2-0 and we stuck to trying to get something from the game.
"We weren’t too much aware of what was going on elsewhere but at 2-1 we knew we were still in the top-six.
"And then Chris (assistant manager Chris Lucketti) was in my ear saying that we need a goal.
"We were going for it anyway. We had a lot of attacking players on the pitch and then to get it in that fashion was just ridiculous really.
"Me and Chris were talking about it in there and I don’t think we’ve been involved in a game like that in the eight or nine years we’ve been management staff.
"I’m so pleased for everybody because we would only have had ourselves to blame if we hadn’t have made it because of the position we’d put ourselves in because of what we’d done prior to New Year.
"But I feel after 33 games that the league doesn’t lie and we deserve to be in there.”
Alexander said he felt really pleased for his players, stressing that although football is a great profession it can be difficult mentally sometimes.
"You can get thrown about a bit,” he added. “But the spirit they’ve shown over the last couple of months.
"I know we haven’t got the points that we wanted to but we’ve never been humped, we’ve always been in the games, we’ve won points from behind.
"Today we have come back from 2-0 down. The boys have character and personality.”
’Well have no fixture this Saturday, with post split games starting on Saturday, April 23.