MOTHERWELL right-back Tom Hateley believes heightened expectations explain why some fans have been getting on the backs of players this season, even though the Steelmen currently sit third in the SPL table.
Hard-to-please Fir Park followers vented their anger both at half-time and full-time during last week’s 3-0 loss at home to St Johnstone.
On Saturday scapegoat Michael Higdon was on the end of a verbal lashing from certain sections of the home support before Motherwell eked out a deserved 1-0 win over lowly Aberdeen.
Insiders at the club have been furious with the reaction of what is a small minority of the Fir Park faithful but Hateley feels the players have the mental strength to deal with the abuse.
“It can be hard,” he admitted this week.
“We expect a lot of ourselves as players but if we do something wrong we don’t mean to.
“It’s just one of those things. You are trying to do the right thing but sometimes fans can get on your back. That is football. You try and make yourself mentally strong and blank it out when they are not happy.”
He added: “I think after how well we did in the cup competitions last season they are expecting a lot from us and probably rightly so. You can’t blame them.
“It is a passionate crowd and they want us to do well just like we want to do well for them. They probably get frustrated when it isn’t the best of games but it is something that you have to get on with as players.”
The weekend’s result was a welcome one following last Saturday’s defeat to St Johnstone and the exit on penalties from the League Cup against Hibernian on Tuesday.
And with two away fixtures to come Hateley felt it was a crucial time to pick up three points.
He said: “A lot has been expected of us since the start of the season and you need to win your home games.
“We had a shocking performance against St Johnstone but against Aberdeen we battled it out. It wasn’t our best performance but Aberdeen are a strong, physical side and we had to dig in. It was a huge result and getting your home form right is massive.”
Motherwell travel to Tannadice on Saturday to take on Dundee United, a side many expect to be in the mix for third place come the end of the season.
Peter Houston’s outfit have endured an inconsistent start to the campaign but can close to within three points of Motherwell going into the international break.
However Hateley is confident his side can pick up a win and maintain their positive league start.
The former Reading player continued: “It’s always a tough game going to Dundee United. They have got some great individuals as well as a really top team. They won the Scottish Cup two seasons ago and have been pretty consistent in the SPL over the past few years.
“We will need to concentrate hard and this week we will be doing plenty of work on them leading into the game.
“But it’s a confident group and I have said before that we always believe we can go anywhere and pick up a result.
“Last season we did well in the cup up at United, drawing 2-2 before beating them at Fir Park.
“I am sure we can get all three points and we don’t go there with any fear.”
He added: “It is always nice to go into the international break with a win and if that happens we will stay third.”