‘Well in top six despite Celtic loss

The following match report and quotes piece  were published in the Motherwell Times on 12 April 2016.

Motherwell secured their place in the top six despite a 2-1 defeat to Celtic at Fir Park, ending a run of five consecutive victories.

Scott McDonald equalised in the second half but Celtic ran out victors when Connor Ripley allowed a Leigh Griffiths strike to slip through his legs, gifting the striker his second goal of the match.

It was a disappointing end to a terrific performance from the Motherwell goalkeeper.

Despite the loss, defeats for St Johnstone and Dundee later in the day means that Mark McGhee’s men will be playing top six football for the remainder of the season.

The first real chance in the Lanarkshire sunshine fell to Chris Cadden, but he scuffed his shot which gathered easily by Craig Gordon.

Celtic went on to thoroughly dominate the rest of the half, testing Ripley on a number of occasions.

Griffiths, Stefan Johansen, Patrick Roberts and Nir Bitton were all denied by the English stopper before Celtic were awarded a penalty in the 25th minute.

The tricky Roberts danced his way into the box and was brought down by Morgaro Gomis but Griffiths fired the spot-kick wide.

The game then stepped up a gear with meaty challenges from both sides in quick succession.

Ripley was called into action four more times – denying Griffiths in a one-on-one, smartly saving a close-range Colin Kazim-Richards strike with his feet and acrobatically denying Kieran Tierney, before once more keeping out Roberts.

Just as the home side thought they may have escaped a first half battering with the game still goalless, Griffiths struck Tierney’s cross low to open the scoring in the 43rd minute.

McGhee changed the shape at half-time, moving Louis Moult from a wide position to partner Scott McDonald in attack.

The switch worked as Motherwell attacked more efficiently while reducing the amount of Celtic chances.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, McDonald was denied a goal after a marginal offside but he soon had Motherwell level.

Cadden muscled his way on to Keith Lasley’s through ball at the byline before cutting back for the Australian, who peeled off his marker before firing past Craig Gordon.

Motherwell failed to take further advantage of their dominant spell and were punished by Griffiths once more with around 15 minutes remaining.

Ripley had again denied Celtic several times – taking his save tally into double figures – but allowed the strike to slip through his legs before it trundled into the net.

It proved to be the winner and took the shine off the goalkeeper’s most impressive performance in a Motherwell shirt.

Ripley finds it difficult to accept his MOTM award

Motherwell goalkeeper Connor Ripley described feeling “bittersweet” after a superb performance was tarnished by an error that cost his side a point.

With 15 minutes remaining and the scores level, Leigh Griffiths shot straight at the 23-year-old but he allowed the ball to slip through his legs and into the net.

The Middlesbrough loanee was quick to point out that it was nothing to do with concentration and that goalkeepers’ mistakes are always highlighted more with them being the last line of defence.

He said: “The best goalkeepers in the world make mistakes. Neuer, Schmeichel, Cassilas, they’ve all made mistakes. I’m gutted but I can’t let myself get down about it.

“If that’d never happened, I think that probably would have been the best game I’ve played since I’ve been at Motherwell.”

Ripley made a number of crucial saves to deny Celtic in the first half but was powerless to stop Griffiths from opening the scoring just before the break.

However, a change in formation at half-time not only shored up Motherwell’s defence, it allowed them to take the game to their opponents.

Ripley said: “The first half, I did have a lot of shots to save and I think when we changed our tactics and the way we shaped up in the second half, I didn’t have that much to do.”

“It’s bittersweet really. I want to be happy I’ve got the man of the match. I said in the changing rooms that I didn’t want it but the goalkeeping coach [Jim Hollman] said ‘Listen, you were fantastic, you were the best player on the pitch.’”

He continued: “I’ve got to look at it and be aware that I did have a good game. I’ve just got to deal with it and get on with it now.”

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