NICKY LAW reckons pitting Motherwell and Hibs together at Fir Park under the floodlights is the perfect concoction for a Friday-night thriller.
The Well midfielder has only experienced one season’s worth of encounters between these two sides since moving up from England in summer 2011, but already he’s hooked on this particular fixture.
The two teams meet in Lanarkshire tomorrow and there’s no shortage of expectation among supporters and neutrals alike, given some of the incredible night-time matches Fir Park has hosted between the teams in recent seasons. Last term, there was a 2-2 draw in a League Cup tie which Hibs won on penalties and then Well gained revenge when they triumphed 4-3 in a game rescheduled following the abandonment of a Friday-night match because of power failure.
Prior to that, of course, there was the famous 6-6 draw in May 2010, while Hibs have also enjoyed some remarkable daytime clashes at Motherwell, winning 3-2, 3-1, 4-1 and 6-1 through there over the past six years.
Law, the 22-year-old former Bradford City and Rotherham player, is relishing the next instalment of this incredible rivalry. “There’s always loads of goals between the teams so it should be a great game,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it. We’re two attacking sides so you’d like to think there’ll be plenty action. The fact it’s under the floodlights in front of the television cameras on a Friday night gives it an extra edge. Friday-night football is nothing new for me because I played quite a few down south but I think it’s definitely worth a try up here. Because it’s a Friday, it will probably be the only game on telly at the time so we should get people all over Britain watching.
“If we can put on a good show it can only be good for Scottish football. Night games at Fir Park always seem to produce good games. With it being a Friday as opposed to a midweek night, fans will have finished their working week and won’t have to worry about going to work the next day. Hibs brought a good support through last year – there was over 8000 at the 4-3 game – so hopefully there’s another big crowd this time. The atmosphere that night against Hibs was the best we had last season.”
Even though he was playing for Rotherham at the time, Law was well aware of the 6-6 classic long before he pitched up at Fir Park. “I remember seeing the 6-6 game when I was down in England, it was incredible,” he recalls. “A few of the lads like Steven Hammell and Tom Hateley still talk about it – I think it was the best game they’ve ever played in. A game like that always sticks in your mind. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime game, but even then we had the 4-3 game last season. These two teams just seem to throw up loads of goals.”
Law – who scored in a 1-1 draw against Hibs at Easter Road last season – has been mightily impressed with the improvement the Edinburgh club have enjoyed this term, with Pat Fenlon’s men sitting in fourth place, two points above out-of-form Motherwell. “Even though Hibs struggled last season they always seemed to do well against us. They beat us in the League Cup and scored plenty goals against us. Every game we played against them was a good game. They’re at the opposite end of the table this season, so it’ll be even tougher to beat them now.
“The manager seems to have eventually turned things round there, as he would have hoped when he first came in. They’ve signed a few good players and [Leigh] Griffiths and [Eoin] Doyle are playing really well, so they’ve got plenty threat. It’s been some turnaround.
“Down in England, when you look at Scottish football, after the Old Firm, most people would say that the likes of Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen are the biggest clubs in the league. You only have to look at the gates they get and the set-up at those clubs to see that they’re big clubs. Hibs obviously haven’t done so well over the past few years, but it certainly looks like they’re heading in the right direction again.”
One of the men helping them do so is former Motherwell player Tim Clancy, and Law is looking forward to catching up with his old team-mate tomorrow. “He’s a lively character and I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to coming back through here. He was brilliant in the dressing-room, especially as we had such a young squad and he was one of the more experienced ones. He always had a smile on his face and was constantly laughing and joking. He was a bit of a prankster as well.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with him. He’s a very good player. He can play anywhere across the back and he was great for us last season. I know the manager would love to have kept him, but his move to Hibs seems to have worked out. Hibs are clearly benefitting from having him in their team.”
Defender ruled out for visit of Hibs
• MOTHERWELL defender Shaun Hutchinson has been ruled out of tomorrow night’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Hibs.
The centre-back suffered a hamstring injury just before the halfway point of Motherwell’s 1-0 defeat by Hearts on Sunday and is likely to miss more than one game.
Manager Stuart McCall said: “Hutchie will be out for a couple of weeks. We’d be very delighted if he were available for the St Johnstone game the week after but I think that might even be pushing it too early.
“But he is certainly out on Friday night. Adam Cummins is free from his suspension so it’s like for like, a centre-half back and a centre-half out.”
Motherwell are looking to end a run of three consecutive defeats, which followed a disappointing end to their trip to Aberdeen when they conceded a two-goal lead in the final six minutes.
McCall’s side suffered successive 2-0 defeats against the Old Firm before Danny Grainger’s long-range strike gave Hearts victory at Tynecastle.
But McCall is refusing to read too much into their run, which has seen them drop from top spot in the SPL to sixth place. “We looked at the run of league games coming up, Aberdeen and Hearts away and Celtic at home, are as difficult as you can possibly get,” he said.
“We were really pleased with the performance at Aberdeen until we lost two goals in the last six minutes and the Hearts game was two very evenly matched sides.
“Grainger scores with a terrific 30-yard shot and you have to hold your hands up at times.
“We knew how strong Aberdeen are and Hearts with a full complement are a match for anyone at Tynecastle, and Celtic as we have seen (against Barcelona) and in recent games, they had their strongest side out and were outstanding.
“We now have three out of four games at home and we have got to look to take a couple of victories, but every game is tight.
“You want to move on and pick up three points as soon as you possibly can but I’m sure between now and the end of the season we will have highs and lows.
“We can’t get too high with a couple of wins and likewise with a couple of defeats.
“I’m sure every manager with their strongest 11 will be confident of getting three points in this division. It’s consistency, it’s getting that little break.”
• Nicky Law was speaking as Motherwell promoted Cash Convertors’ backing of prostate and testicular cancer charity Movember. For more details, go to tashconverters.co.uk