STUART McCALL today paid tribute to Motherwell top scorer John Sutton by declaring the Englishman was his key summer signing.

The powerful Fir Park predator took his tally for the season to 16 goals after claiming a double in the enthralling 3-3 draw at Hibs on Saturday.

That has left Sutty just one strike short of his career-best 17 notches, compiled in the 2010/11 campaign, when he helped fire the Steelmen into Europe and the Scottish Cup final.

McCall watched previous strike leader Michael Higdon go to NEC Nijmegen last summer, after the Scouser became Motherwell's top goalscorer in a season since the Second World War.

With Higdon notching 26 league goals to finish as the Scottish top tier's number one poacher, and becoming PFA Scotland Players' Player of the Year for 2012/13, McCall admitted he had been worried about sourcing an adequate replacement.

But with Sutton's unhappy ­sojourn at Hearts coming to an end the Fir Park boss moved in to bring him back to Lanarkshire and has been well rewarded for his faith in the frontman.

McCall said: "The minute I knew there was a chance we could get Sutty back to Fir Park I made sure we moved for him. He is a great professional both on and off the park, he is a fine finisher and he is a team player.

"Obviously you worry when you have a striker like Michael Higdon leaving the club and taking his goals with him to Holland. But I'd no doubt Sutty could come in and do a great job for us and he proved me right.

"We have five games left to the split and then another five after it and if John can stay in the type of form he is in right now then it could prove crucial for us. There is no doubt he was a key signing for us last summer."

Motherwell have a 10-day break until their next match, which is the Wednesday week visit of Inverness, and McCall admits this will be crucial in helping him clear his crock list.

The Fir Park gaffer said: "The injuries have been really stretching us of late and at Easter Road we finished the game with four teenagers on the park. So the weekend off, in terms of giving us some extra time to get players back, is a huge help.

"I am hopeful that Stevie Hammell, Zaine Francis-Angol, Fraser Kerr and Henri Anier will all be available again. Simon Ramsden is running again, and although the Inverness game will be too soon for him, he is making great progress after knee surgery."

HE added: "There are also other players who have been performing with niggles, so the extra four days off is a big plus and comes at a great time for us."

The Well boss admitted that despite his side losing a two-goal lead in Saturday's 3-3 thriller at Easter Road, he was happy to take a point from the capital.

McCall said: "The pivotal moment was probably when Hibs got a goal back just before the break when we had been comfortable at 2-0 up. But with 85 minutes gone I was thinking we were going to leave empty-handed and the last-gasp equaliser was testament to the fact the lads kept going to the death.

"The point at Hibs has also taken us one closer to Aberdeen and on reflection, maybe the draw was about right."