ALL eyes will be on Lee Hollis this afternoon, although a few fans may well need a hand picking him out.
The Motherwell goalkeeper has been a peripheral presence since signing from Airdrie United in 2010 but he will find himself back in the thick of things when Motherwell travel to Pittodrie for a William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round tie.
He has been nudged to the forefront by the boot of Darren Randolph, the Motherwell No.1 catching Hearts striker Callum Paterson last weekend and earning a two-match ban for his trouble. The Irishman will be forced to watch from the sidelines as Hollis steps in to deputise against Aberdeen, then, and he will be acutely aware of the pressure his team-mate will be under to handle the occasion, the ball and pretty much everything else that comes his way.
It is difficult to judge Hollis' capacity to fill the void as there has been very little to go on; he has pulled on a Motherwell shirt just twice before. One of those came in a 4-0 drubbing by Celtic. He has been given ample support from within the squad, though, and Stuart McCall has seen enough in training to put his faith – and Motherwell's hopes of progressing to the next round – in the hands of the 26-year-old.
"Every team I've been at, when you have eight-a-sides, normally a team will want to be with the first-choice goalkeeper," said the Motherwell manager. "For example, at Rangers, you had Andy Goram and at half-time you didn't want to change around. Here it doesn't matter if Darren is in goal or Lee is in goal because Lee is excellent at shot-stopping.
"Lee has been a great No.2 because he has pushed Darren all the way, hence Darren's consistency levels have been first class. He has an excellent temperament, I have no worries at all of him playing. Even at Parkhead, although we lost four goals it could have been eight or nine [had it not been for] Lee."
McCall had sent Gordon Marshall, the club's goalkeeping coach, to contest that retrospective ban that had been offered to Randolph by Vincent Lunny, the Scottish Football Association's compliance officer this week. However, he was not inclined to argue further yesterday. "I thought if the referee sees it, then he deems the punishment," he said. "We got done last season for Steve Jennings and big [Michael] Higdon for things the referee has not seen. The one thing I can say is it wouldn't have been a penalty because the boy Paterson was a yard offside when the shot came in."
Motherwell have not lost to Aberdeen in the league since 2008, although the Pittodrie side have proven to be a far more imposing prospect this season. Only defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle earlier this week denied them the chance to move top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, for 24 hours at least.
That result has given cause to a degree of soul-searching within the Pittodrie squad. Aside from being without almost an entire team because of injury, the question of poor form on their own patch – the side have won only two league games at Pittodrie this season – remains a burning issue. Niall McGinn, who has been in fine scoring for Aberdeen with eight goals thus far, admitted the scale of his club's injury crisis was unprecedented but that it had focused minds on the need to remain in the cup competition.
"It was definitely on my mind when I signed for Aberdeen that we had a chance of silverware," said the striker. "We have a good team with some important signings, like Jonny Hayes, so when we have a fit squad we can win something."