Humphrey says Motherwell must look forward after cup exit

CHRIS HUMPHREY admits Motherwell did not do themselves justice as their Scottish Cup journey was ended for another year by a disappointing 2-1 fourth-round replay defeat by Aberdeen at Fir Park.

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Stuart McCall shows his frustration as Motherwell slump to replay defeat
Stuart McCall shows his frustration as Motherwell slump to replay defeat

While the two previous meetings between the sides this term, an enthralling six-goal draw in the SPL and the 1-1 precursor to this cup replay, failed to provide a clear-cut winner, it was the meeting between the clubs at the quarter-final stage of last season's competition that demanded redress from the Steelmen's perspective.

It had been a tie that also ended 2-1 to Craig Brown's side and one that had everything – Well manager McCall sent to the stand for angst caused by a disputed corner that led to Aberdeen's decisive goal, a red card for Well skipper Keith Lasley and a heroic 10-man fightback that came up just short.

But although this, therefore, was the perfect opportunity, in seriously sub-zero conditions, to prove that revenge was indeed a dish best served ice-cold, a gut- wrenching sense of deja vu was all that prevailed as Aberdeen clinically claimed victory to book a fifth-round progress to Hibernian.

And Humph admitted: "Although we played well in the first half, we did not create the level of chances we would have liked and really we feel we did not do ourselves justice.

"It was tough to take, getting pegged back in the first tie right at the end, and we really believed we could get through and also make up for the quarter-fianl last season, but we just did not create enough.

"It is just really frustrating to have earned the replay and not made the most of home advantage."

Now the Fir Park star has warned it is vital this exit to the Dons does not impact on Well's recent SPL revival when they head to Hibs on Saturday.

He said: "We can't afford to let our heads go down. We have Hibs in the SPL at the weekend and, after we have fought back to get into the top three, it is vital we don't let this loss undermine that.

"It is all about the SPL now and we just need to put this behind us and kick on."

With an early pattern of cat and mouse emerging, Well's early probings finally produced penetration in seven minutes when Stuart Carswell, in for the crocked Nicky Law, lashed in a 12-yard diagonal drive which was superbly diverted by Jamie Langfield in the Dons goal.

Six minutes later Well went even closer when Darren Randolph launched Fir Park flyer Chris Humphrey on a raid down the Aberdeen left flank. His cross was met by Michael Higdon but, although the Well top scorer's header beat Langfield, the ball screwed a yard over.

But, with skipper Keith Lasley running the midfield show, the Steelmen dominated the early possession, while Aberdeen sat in patiently behind a 4-5-1 and waited for their opportunity to pounce.

On the half-hour mark it came, but Jonny Hayes' 30-yard Exocet was brilliantly tipped over by Randolph.

Five minutes before the interval a lack of concentration via a wayward Shaun Hutchinson pass almost cost Well dear and Clark Robertson's cross was met by Fallon, only for Randolph to claw away his header superbly at full stretch.

But the first half drew to a close with the visitors, in all probability, the more satisfied of the two teams.

Six minutes after the interval that satisfaction grew into delight, Rory Fallon driving home from 10 yards after the Well central defence failed to clear a Joe Shaughnessy cross. The Dons had taken the lead against their Lanarkshire opponents for the first time this term.

As the game stretched, only a superb Randolph block denied Nial McGinn as Aberdeen grew in confidence.

But the tide had turned and the visitors' second goal soon arrived, the impressive Hayes sprinting down the Well right wing and crossing for Shaughnessy to slot home at the back post.

While a last-minute handball by Dons defender Robertson literally handed Well a penalty, that Higdon converted into a consolation, it was too little, too late.

Ultimately the old home failings of being unable to cash in on their domination of possession and territory, that have been so damaging in the SPL, ended Fir Park hopes of emulating their Hampden glory run of two seasons ago.

Yet, make no mistake, Motherwell are too good a side not to feature in the European dog- fight at the apex of the SPL when the season comes to its end.

In that regard this early exit from the Scottish Cup may well provide an unexpected silver lining.

For his part, Dons boss Craig Brown admitted his delight. He said: "We are very pleased to be in the next round. Motherwell is never an easy place to come and get a result, especially in a replay."

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