THE road to Hampden for Motherwell started at, err, Hampden yesterday in the height of summer.
With the Glasgow Fair now upon us, it will come as little surprise that it was soggier than a mermaid’s wellie at the national stadium on what the travelling support will hope is an ominous day for all the right reasons on the back of this 5-1 Betfred Cup win over Queen’s Park.
It has been 26 years since the Fir Park club lifted trophy here. The heroes of 1991 still idolised by the thousand or so soggy souls who squelched into the Mount Florida deluge after a flood of goals. Yet it will be the final one of the bunch that will resonate most with them given who sent it flying beyond William Muir.
The speculation over Louis Moult’s future at Motherwell has heightened almost on a daily basis over the last couple of weeks. A week on from the club rejecting a £350,000 offer from Aberdeen, the player himself said in the build up to this game that he hopes Motherwell honour their promise to let him go on and progress when the time is right.
On the back of his cameo at Hampden, let’s hope for their sake it’s not now. On the park for just nine minutes, the 25-year-old stepped up to bend an outstanding free-kick into the top corner form 25 yards four minutes from time – known around these parts as a Leigh Griffiths special – to the rapturous applause of the band of fans sprawled out in the South Stand, all of whom praying it wasn’t not a parting shot.
“The club has been unbelievable for me. Ever since I came here they always made me feel welcome,” said the man himself. “I’ve a special bond with the fans and I love it.”
Since that’s what he’s been saying for the last four months, we’ll instead go to his manager.
“He’s a Motherwell player at the moment and I’m optimistic that will remain the case until someone puts in a bid we regard as acceptable,” said Stephen Robinson. “We’ll dictate what that is, nobody else.
“That’s 37 goals he’s scored for us. He’s totally focussed on playing, as he showed today. We’ll keep using him and he’ll keep scoring goals for us.”
The margin of victory at full-time was comprehensive for a Motherwell side fielding five players making their competitive debuts in claret and amber. Still, they were made to work for it as Queen’s Park hunted for their first win at Hampden over the Steelmen for 60 years.
A Chris Cadden cool finish from an Alex Fisher knock down got things started on just nine minutes, but it was former Motherwell man Adam Cummins who silenced the Hampden echo 14 minutes later as he crashed home a header after Trevor Carson had somehow diverted his first effort on to the bar.
As the game wore on Queen’s wore out and eight minutes after the break new boy Craig Tanner slotted under Muir from just inside the area to restore the lead, before substitute Ryan Bowman grabbed a brace within three minutes as he beat the offside trap twice to firstly round Muir before lobbing him soon after for the fourth. Then came Moult.
“For the best part of an hour we competed very, very well,” said Gus MacPherson, the Queen’s Park manager. “It’s just decision making.
“It was a fantastic test for our boys who have come from Junior football to see what it’s all about. If you make mistakes you’ll get punished, but it’s a great learning curve for them.”