Keith LASLEY is enjoying something of a renaissance in his tenth year at Motherwell, helping his team to second in the league and striking his fair share of goals in recent weeks.
The 32-year-old veteran does not want the fairytale to end against Hibs at Easter Road this weekend.
Motherwell could lose second place to Celtic, at least temporarily, if the Hoops gain a minimum of one point at Kilmarnock in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off. Regardless of whether that scenario comes to pass, the Steelmen will be confident of staying tucked in behind league leaders Rangers after seeing off Aberdeen and Dundee United in their last two games.
Lasley himself added to a healthy personal goal return with a strike in the 3-1 victory at Tannadice, that early counter on Tayside his third of the season after netting on the opening day against Inverness and in the 2-2 League Cup draw against Hibs (who won on penalties) three weeks ago.
The birth of his son, Alfie, last week will not deflect from the Motherwell vice-captain’s focus on helping his side continue to fly high.
He said: “Any international break, by having that week off and those extra couple of days, refreshes you mentally and physically. We’re sitting second and it has been a really good start to the season for us, one our play has merited. In most of the games we’ve played, we have deserved a victory. It’s certainly been a positive start, and we will look to continue it on Saturday.
“I’m delighted and very happy just to be party of a team doing well. On a personal level, I’m happy to have made a contribution in terms of goals, too, which is something I know I’ve got to do more. I’m feeling good and enjoying my football more than ever.”
Motherwell are not acclimatised to the “nosebleed” territory of second place in the SPL and certainly were not anticipated to pose a challenge to either halves of the Old Firm at the beginning of the current campaign. Where Hibs possess a “big name” in the form of Garry O’Connor, the Well squad is one bereft of similar marquee players – although Michael Higdon has struck six goals in the Fir Park men’s last seven games and electric winger Chris Humphrey has recently shown glimpses of his exciting best. Those two influential players apart, what is the secret to the Lanarkshire side’s success? “I think continuity was a big thing for us,” said Lasley. “Apart from the Scottish Cup final itself [where Motherwell were soundly beaten by Celtic at Hampden], we had a good run at the end of last season. It was a big thing to keep as many of squad together as possible. John Sutton has left [for Hearts], but most of the boys stayed and Nicky Law and Michael Higdon came in. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we all know what each other is doing on the park.
“Higdon is a slightly different player to Sutton. He’s the same stature-wise – a target man who’ll hold it up – but he’s come in and has started to find the net now. He does a lot of work when you don’t think he’s doing anything. His sheer presence and bringing others into play has been key for us.
“Especially away from home, Chris Humphrey gives us a great option.
“When you’re the away team you’re often counter attacking or trying to hit teams on the break, and Chris is the perfect weapon in those situations. He’s been a big player for us, and his sheer pace will hurt most defences.”
With plenty attacking ammunition in their arsenal, Motherwell’s squad make-up is not dissimilar to that of Hibs, who have relied on the prolific O’Connor and steady supply from Leigh Griffiths and Junior Agogo in their high-scoring encounters of recent weeks. Lasley expects such attacking flair to provide an exciting spectacle for fans at Easter Road on Saturday.
“It’s two teams who like to go forward,” he said. “Hibs have got goals in their team with the likes of =O’Connor, Griffiths, and Agogo, and hopefully it will be a good game for the supporters.
“The teams are positive in their thinking – you saw that in the League Cup game, which could have been 6-6 like the game a few years ago. That’s a mark of the way they approach the game.
“Most of our games have had a lot of goals in them, and I don’t see that changing on Saturday. I find it much more preferably to play in an open exciting game, especially with the players we have who can damage the opposition.”