Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2015-16 report card - Motherwell

McGhee's remarkable turnaround

LEAGUE: 5th, 50pts (2014-15 - 11th, 36pts)
SCOTTISH CUP: Fifth round
LEAGUE CUP: Third round
MOST USED FIRST XI: Connor Ripley, Josh Law, Steven McManus, Kieran Kennedy, Stevie Hammell, Lionel Ainsworth, Stephen Pearson, Keith Lasley, Marvin Johnson, Scott McDonald, Louis Moult

OVERVIEW: Motherwell went to Tannadice in mid-February languishing in 11th spot, without a win in seven and in real trouble.  They triumphed 3-0 that night, then only went and won five of the next six to force their way into an unlikely top six spot.  It was quite a remarkable turnaround given the mess that Ian Baraclough had left behind when sacked at the end of September, and the initial difficulties Mark McGhee endured.  The key was a formation change which meant they played with three strikers; whilst the defence was often overexposed, the outstanding form of forward trio Louis Moult, Scott McDonald and Marvin Johnson more than compensated.

HIGH POINTS: A shock win at Celtic Park, courtesy of a Moult double, was a welcome Christmas present for the fans.  Another come-from-behind win, against Aberdeen, wrecked the Dons' title hopes and came after most of the squad had been laid low with illness.

LOW POINTS: Baraclough's reign ended after they were knocked out of the League Cup by Morton, amid talk of considerable dressing room unrest.  And if losing 7-0 to Celtic on Title Day didn't count for much, being pumped 6-0 at Hearts in January certainly did.

STAR MAN: Moult got the goals - eighteen in all competitions - but plenty came courtesy of fabulous wing play from Marvin Johnson.  For much of the second half of the season, the speedy wideman was uncatchable and unplayable.

ONE FOR THE FUTURE: Central defender Ben Hall came out of nowhere to establish himself in the team at just 19, while midfielder Chris Cadden - the same age - is now a regular in midfield.

WASTE OF SPACE: Baraclough made some poor signings, the worst of which was Reading loanee Jake Taylor, a midfielder devoid of ability and prone to petulance; one wit on Pie & Bovril hailed one Taylor performance as his best for the club...because he had been an unused sub that day.

THE BOSS: Not many folk, Motherwell fan or otherwise, were all that impressed by the return of McGhee seven years after he had left them for Aberdeen.  And it took him a while to have a positive impact, not least because of a strange insistence on leaving Moult on the bench.  But getting this team into the top half of the table is a remarkable achievement, and there's no question he got a lot more out of this team than his predecessor did.

PROSPECTS FOR NEXT SEASON: Some of the feelgood feeling has been sucked away by the news that the club have to cut their cloth, which means several senior players will have to take wage cuts if they are to get new deals.  That may mean that there's not much left over for new faces either.  In a league where very little separated the teams in fourth and eleventh place, it's not impossible to envisage them falling down the table if they don't recruit well.  But one of the characteristics of McGhee's first spell at Fir Park was that he managed to find some terrific players, so there's reason for optimism.

FIRST TEAMERS DEFINITELY LEAVING: David Clarkson, Wes Fletcher, Morgaro Gomis (end of loan), Connor Ripley (end of loan)

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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