MOTHERWELL defender Shaun Hutchinson today urged his club to make re-signing Michael Higdon the top priority after the big Scouser's second hat-trick of the season secured a 3-2 win over St Johnstone.
The Fir Park side took their unbeaten home run to six SPL outings to underline their turnaround in form at Fir Park from the first-half of the season, when home failings were the prime reason Well had not been able to pull clear of the pack chasing Celtic.
Now this three-point haul not only dented the European hopes of one of Well's main Euro rivals, but also restored Stuart McCall's men to joint- second place in the SPL table alongside Inverness.
Hutch was in no doubt how much of this was thanks to hat-trick hero Higgy, who goes out of contract in the summer.
He said: "Michael's goals are absolutely vital to us. I think that is 16 now for the season – the same as he got for the whole of last season and we have almost half of the league season to go.
"He is crucial to us and our hopes of securing European football again and hopefully the club will bring Michael to the table for talks on a new deal as soon as possible.
"If you take his goals away it would be a huge loss."
While Well have now joined Terry Butcher's Inverness in joint-second, Hutch says the race for second place is anything but a two-horse affair.
He said: "It was important to win and open up a seven- point gap on St Johnstone but they can still come again.
"You look at the SPL and it is impossible to predict results from week-to-week.
"So there is a long way to go but the great thing for us is that we have turned things around at home and we need to keep that going."
With St Johnstone just four points adrift of McCall's men before kick-off, this fixture fitted the bill of a Euro six-pointer perfectly – and it did not disappoint.
After just three minutes the Saints, looking for their first win over Well this term, should have been in front.
A clever lay off by Rowan Vine set Chris Millar into space on the 18-yard line, but he sliced his drive wide of Darren Randolph's right stick when he should, at the very least, have made the keeper work.
It was Well though who would take the lead, as Chris Humphrey ended a rampaging run with a neat cut-back to Higdon, who applied a composed finish to find the net.
Five minutes later Well were two up after David McCracken and Callum Davidson got in a fankle inside the danger area, allowing Higdon to lash home from 16 yards for his 15th goal of the campaign.
The game then seemed to be settled after the break as Higdon claimed his third with a neat finish from six yards, but Perth sub Nigel Hasselbaink reduced the deficit after 77 minutes with a fine curling effort from 20 yards.
Moments later the comeback was on as Liam Craig found the net with a left-foot drive from outside the box, but while Hasselbaink came close from inside the area, the Saints could not find a late goal to level the match.