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Illness afflicts Motherwell side that looked poorly already

STUART McCALL, the Motherwell manager, watched as Celtic got a taste of their own medicine on Wednesday night.

When you come up against a superior team on the wrong night, like his side did at Fir Park last Friday, there is precious little that can be done to turn the attacking tide.

"You look at what happened in midweek: if a top team are on their game, which Celtic were against us, that, unfortunately, can be a result that happens," admitted McCall. "Celtic did to us what Barcelona did to them. We know we could have done better in certain areas but we've got to hold our hands up and say they were really good. It's not acceptable, but it's understandable."

It is at least a result that can be swept comfortably under the carpet, in contrast to the William Hill Scottish Cup defeat by Albion Rovers which may stick out like an eyesore for a while yet. But McCall's week was still to worsen as a throat infection spread through the squad, permitting only disjointed training sessions.

It is in the goalkeeper position, though, which has caused the most consternation."Big Gunnar [Nielsen] took a strain to his thigh last week so he's not been able to train all week," said McCall.

"Of the five goalies we have on our books - two 16 year olds, an 18-year-old, Gunnar and Lee [Hollis] - only the 18-year-old has been able to train due to illness and injury. So big Marsh [Gordon Marshall, goalkeeper coach] has had to be in goal in our five-a-sides games.

"He's nearly 50, he started the week looking 40, and if you've seen him walking around the corridors now he's looking about 60. But it's given the boys a lot of confidence because they've scored a few goals!"

Simon Ramsden was one of those struck down with illness, but fortunately only missed a day of training. The full-back warned of the threat a wounded Ross County pose this afternoon. "We know that it's a massive game as they're fighting for their lives down there," he said.

"The standards we've set ourselves since I've been at the club . . . we're well aware we've slipped below what we should be doing and we've got a job to do [today]. A lot of people are doubting us at the minute, but we have to show them what we're all about and show a bit of character."

Richie Brittain, the Ross County captain, is not reading too much into Motherwell's dip in form, though, and is wary of taking the threat of the Fir Park side lightly. "They got off to a very good start and they are sitting at the top end of the table for all the right reasons," he said. "They are an exciting side.

"The game against Celtic was maybe a bit false. Hopefully, we can take parts of last Saturday [a 2-1 defeat by Kilmarnock] into [today] and if we have a bit more of a cutting edge, hopefully, we won't be far away."

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