Feb 27 2013 By Andrew Weston
Motherwell assistant boss Kenny Black insists all the focus is on finishing in the top six and claims talk of a top two finish is off the agenda.
Back-to-back defeats for Motherwell means the race for a top six place is wide open and with Celtic the visitors to Fir Park this evening suddenly a team which was sitting second before Saturday’s game at Ross County is now anxiously looking over their shoulders.
Remarkably just four points separate Dundee United in ninth and the two Highland clubs in second. Motherwell are now down to fourth following County's win at Aberdeen last night.
Tricky away trips to Hearts and Aberdeen follow the clash with Celtic and Black has been quick to temper expectations among the Steelmen support.
He said: “People tend to get carried away but here at Motherwell to get in the top six requires a great deal of consistency and it can take two or three bad results and the league positions can change very quickly.
“We need to get in the top six and anything after that would be a bonus.
“It might be looked at as a negative. Some Motherwell supporters will think we should be finishing second but I think that’s way off the mark. We have certainly been stressing to the players that getting in the top six would be great and that’s exactly what we’ll aim to do.”
Motherwell will need to show a vast improvement from Saturday’s showing at Ross County if they are to consolidate a place in the upper reaches of the SPL before the split.
An Ivan Sproule inspired County won 3-0 at Victoria Park and the SPL new boys are right in the mix for European qualification.
And Kenny Black knows Motherwell will have to up their game significantly when Celtic come to town this evening.
“We got exactly what we deserved at the weekend which was nothing,” he admitted. “It was a very frustrating 90 minutes and a horrible journey back down the road.
“Celtic are the champions-elect there is no getting away from that. We will need to improve greatly to get anything.”
He added: “The game at Parkhead on January 2 still lingers a bit. I think after we weathered Celtic’s initial storm in the first 20 minutes we did well. Tom (Hateley) missed a penalty and they broke up the park and scored the winner. It was a sore one to take.”
Motherwell hope to have Tom Hateley and Stevie Hammell back in contention after both missed Saturday’s game due to injury.
Defender Fraser Kerr took ill in the morning of the game but should be available for selection.
Meanwhile Black hopes Motherwell can get back to winning ways on the road on Saturday when they make the trip to Tynecastle.
The former Jambos player said: “Hearts have introduced a lot of younger players and the squad are playing for League Cup final places. It is always a difficult place going to Tynecastle at any time of the season.
“We have not scored in our past three games away from home which is disappointing because at the start of the season our away form was a real plus. It can be quite an intimidating atmosphere there but we hope to do what Inverness did to them on Saturday.”