For a player who had scored just four times in his previous three seasons, three in just five games represents something of a “goals rush.”
But, Hibs star David Wotherspoon revealed today, there’s no secret behind his seemingly sudden success in front of goal other than simple hard work on the training ground.
Three days a week the midfield ace stays behind at East Mains practising his shooting and that “overtime” has paid handsome dividends for the 22-year-old with spectacular strikes in recent weeks against Inverness Caley, Dundee and, now, Motherwell.
To be fair to Wotherspoon, who scored on his debut against St Mirren three years ago, he’s consistently declared his desire to see his name on the scoresheet on a more regular basis but rather than just hope, he’s set about ensuring it would happen.
He said: “Recently I’ve been doing a lot of shooting practise after training. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays it’s been a case of getting the goalkeepers in the nets and having a few shots for ten or 15 minutes and it seems to have helped.”
Attention to detail has also paid off with the naturally right-footed Wotherspoon disclosing he’s also been putting in the work on his left foot. He said: “I’ve been doing a bit with our goalkeeping coach Scott Thomson, basically just ‘passing’ the ball into the net with my left foot and, again, that seems to have worked with the one I scored against Dundee.”
Wotherspoon’s latest strike set Hibs on their way to what, ultimately, proved to both a convincing and comfortable 4-0 win at Fir Park and again it was something special. Taking team-mate Paul Cairney’s pass, the Perth-born star steadied himself before hammering a rising shot from 20 yards beyond Motherwell goalkeeper Darren Randolph and into the top right corner of his net.
Wotherspoon, who also scored twice for Scotland’s Under-21 side including that stunning winner against Holland in Nijmegen last November, said: “They just seem to keep coming for me at the moment so long may that continue. Someone was joking after the match that I don’t seem to do ‘tap ins’ but I was obviously delighted with the goal, it was brilliant.
“Paul did superbly well to turn away from his marker and then set me up for a strike. Mind you, if it hadn’t gone in Leigh Griffiths who was unmarked on my right was ready to give me a rollicking for not passing it on to him.”
Wotherspoon agreed the goal had come at the perfect time for Hibs after Pat Fenlon’s side had found themselves under some early pressure from the Lanarkshire outfit although he might have got his name on the scoresheet a little earlier when an instinctive backheel on Griffiths’ low, driven cross deflected the ball just wide of Randolph’s far post. While Wotherspoon’s goal was clear-cut, the game found itself shrouded in controversy with referee Stevie O’Reilly making himself the most unpopular man inside Fir Park at least as far as the home fans were concerned. After his assistant Francis Andrews failed to spot Motherwell skipper Stevie Hammell’s header had crossed the line before Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams clawed the ball away, the whistler awarded three penalties in quick succession, all of which were debatable.
While Williams diplomatically brushed off the furore surrounding the “goal that never was”, one which would have hauled Stuart McCall’s side level and perhaps put an entirely different complexion on the match, by saying the decision of whether the ball had crossed the line was not his to make, Wotherspoon revealed that while he was closest to Hammell that like O’Reilly and Andrews he couldn’t tell although television pictures appeared to show the officials had got it wrong.
He said: “I was picking up Hammell at the back post but he managed to jump over me and get his head on it. Ben flew across, I was on the ground and couldn’t see clearly, but it looked as if he’s saved it. They were claiming it was over the line. It was a big moment in the game but it gave us another lift.”
O’Reilly then pointed to the spot as Griffiths, having raced clear to get on the end of Ryan McGivern’s ball over the top, went down under the challenge of Randolph after rounding the goalkeeper although the Hibs striker admitted afterwards he wasn’t looking for a penalty.
Nevertheless Griffiths slotted the spot-kick away only for O’Reilly to award Motherwell a penalty as skipper James McPake rose above Fir Park striker Michael Higdon to head clear. It was a very similar scenario to an incident at Tynecastle six days earlier when Hearts defender Andy Webster put in a similar challenge on Higdon but escaped without punishment.
Hibs, likewise, escaped unscathed as Higdon blasted over from 12 yards before O’Reilly gave the game’s third penalty, leaving Motherwell incensed yet again as they insisted Hammell’s challenge on Wotherspoon was outside the box, a claim for which the Hibs star admitted he had some sympathy.
He said: “I couldn’t really see the first penalty very well as I had players running across me but the referee has given it. I thought their penalty was soft, Higdon is a big, strong guy. It was a 50/50 ball and to me James wanted it more.
“To be honest I thought my penalty was outside the box. I was trying to dribble into the area, Hammell has gone to ground and I felt it was on the line or just outside. I was a bit surprised the referee gave it, but obviously happy at the same time.”
Griffiths beat Randolph all ends up again to take his goals tally for the season to nine and deep into the seven minutes added on mainly due to O’Reilly limping off with a calf strain to be replaced by fourth official Iain Brines, Wotherspoon supplied the pass for substitute Danny Handling to score his first goal for Hibs and to seal an emphatic victory.
It was Hibs’ 19th goal in six visits to Fir Park and the Edinburgh club’s biggest away win since, yes, you’ve guessed it, their 6-1 hammering of Motherwell almost six years ago. Wotherspoon, who played in that epic 6-6 draw in Lanarkshire, the SPL’s highest ever scoring game, said: “I don’t know what it is but we seem to enjoy playing there.
“It’s looked upon as a hard place to go but every time we play there it is an open game. We’ve scored a lot of goals at Fir Park, and lost a few as well, so to keep a clean sheet made it all the better.”