He is a forward who strikes on average once every four starts in the SPL but possesses a remarkable habit of scoring against Hibs on a regular basis.
For no opposition does Jamie Murphy hold more fear than the Easter Road side, with the Motherwell striker having plundered four goals in his last six league meetings with the green half of Edinburgh. He also headed the only goal of the game when the teams met in Leith in mid-October.
Although Murphy may personally relish the chance of facing Hibs tomorrow evening in what will be new Easter Road manager Pat Fenlon’s debut match, he insists that Motherwell’s chances of victory are not influenced by the fact their opponents will be gingerly taking their first steps under a new management regime.
“I don’t know if there’s any good time to play a team, but obviously we’ve got a good record against Hibs and hopefully we can keep that going,” said Murphy of Motherwell’s record of two wins from the the clubs’ last couple of league meetings. “The team needs to play well, hard work from everyone. I think we’ve shown that so far this season – we’re a team that works hard and gets things done. That will be the key come tomorrow.
“It’s always an entertaining match when we play against Hibs. They’re a good footballing team, as we are. It should be a good game to come and watch, and hopefully people do.”
Tomorrow’s match is the second Friday night fixture of the SPL season. The results of the governing body’s experiment of moving fixtures a day ahead from the traditional Saturday hinges largely on how fans can – and choose to – integrate football at that time into their weekly routine. Murphy is in favour of playing games for Motherwell on a Friday night, simply because he enjoys the atmosphere that comes with matches under floodlight.
He adds that any plan to attract more fans should be applauded because the Lanarkshire club’s Fir Park ground is extremely atmospheric with a bumper crowd inside, as exemplified in the league game against Celtic earlier this season when ‘Well recorded a five-figure attendance.
“It’s a bit different, being on a Friday night, so it’s something to look forward to,” said the 22-year-old. “I prefer playing in night games – there’s a good build-up – and hopefully there’s a bigger crowd on Friday night as well. I know they’re only trying a few [Friday night] games this season, but hopefully it goes well.
“I’m sure it’ll be a bit different on the Saturday without a game. You don’t get free weekends that often as a footballer, but I’m sure we’ll enjoy it that wee bit more if we get the three points.
“The more people here, the better for the team. Hopefully the Friday night game does [generate a bigger crowd] and people want to come out and watch a game of football.
“The atmosphere [against Celtic] was good that day. The Motherwell fans were great and hopefully there are a few extra people in against Hibs and they make a good noise.”
If one man is likely to lift the home support from their seats in anticipation, it is the flying Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey, who proved a handful for Hibs the last time the sides met at Fir Park. Hibs were victorious after a display of heroics by goalkeeper Mark Brown during a penalty shoot-out win towards the end of September, but Humphrey caught the eye in regulation time with his surging runs down the right, a characteristic of Stuart McCall’s side that Pat Fenlon’s men will do well to counter tomorrow night. “Chris is one of the fastest players you’ll see,” said Murphy. “Any time he can get on the ball and in behind then he’s going to do damage to the other team, so he’s good to have on our team.”
Murphy also senses danger within Hibs’ attacking arsenal, knowing only too well the threat of Leigh Griffiths having in the past partnered him in the Scotland under-21 forward line. Murphy said it will be “good to catch up” with fellow young internationalists like Paul Hanlon and David Wotherspoon, but cites Griffiths as Hibs’ major threat. “Personally, I know Leigh from the Scotland under-21s. He’s always dangerous and always capable of scoring a goal out of nothing. I’m sure we’ll have a plan in place and be ready to go.”
Motherwell have won four away games – including one in Leith – since they last tasted a home win, their previous three-point haul at Fir Park coming more than two months ago. In a manner similar to how high-flying St Johnstone recently arrested a three-game winless streak with victory over Hibs, and Dunfermline ended a run of eight league games without a win by scoring the only goal at Easter Road in early November, Motherwell and Murphy are also hoping a barren home run can end against the Capital side.
“We’re disappointed not to win the last few games here at Fir Park so we just want to win tomorrow and put on a good performance,” said Murphy. “Hopefully we can get the goals we need and get the three points. We don’t even think about [our home record] – it’s just every game as it comes. Home or away, it doesn’t really matter to us. We just try to win every game, even against the Old Firm, so when Hibs come it’ll be no different.
“It was a good win for us over at Easter Road. It’s always difficult to go there, and we’re hoping it’s equally difficult for Hibs to come here to Fir Park.”