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Motherwell might not have such a lavish squad but Stuart McCall has belief in their staying power

This season is about keeping up appearances for Motherwell.

Henri Anier's future with Motherwell is in doubt
Henri Anier's future with Motherwell is in doubt

A 3-0 win on Saturday has allowed the Fir Park side to present themselves again as a team capable of competing for prominence among the top six of the SPFL Premiership having been undermined by some recent results. They succumbed to heavy defeats against both Dundee United and Celtic in the league, and another rather weighty loss to Albion Rovers last month in the William Hill Scottish Cup.

The weekend win over St Mirren signalled an advance on second place in the table - Motherwell are just one point behind Dundee United - but it was a result celebrated on two fronts. Henri Anier and Lionel Ainsworth shared three goals between them and were enveloped by their team-mates on the pitch, while the Motherwell bench reacted warmly. They were wrapped up in jackets at the time.

The Fir Park side would accommodate three substitutes but only after they had first packed away a second successive league win. The squad comprises an established starting XI which is often relied on, then, yet the depth of the squad has still to be tested and may be found to be rather shallow during an exacting festive schedule which begins with a trip away to Aberdeen on Boxing Day.

"I've not changed my mind from the beginning of the season that Aberdeen have the strongest squad outside of Celtic," said Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager. "Derek [McInnes] brought in good players, allied with the good young ones and experienced ones they had. But, with starting XIs, I'm sure Dundee United, Inverness, ourselves and St Johnstone will think we can give them a run for their money. Injuries and suspensions will come into it and, in terms of squad depth, Aberdeen are the strongest."

The Pittodrie side would flex their muscles at the weekend with a 4-3 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle - albeit they remain just a point ahead of Motherwell - and it was a match which would invite McInnes to reveal the strength of his hand. Mark Reynolds, a defender of certain composure, was stretchered off with a facial injury but would his side would regroup; Jonny Hayes coming off the bench and into midfield. Gregg Wylde, Calvin Zola and Cammy Smith - a midfielder rated highly enough to last week earn a new contract which will run until 2017 - would not be asked to break cover from the sidelines.

"Aberdeen are getting a lot of praise because they are doing better than last season and Dundee United are getting deserved praise with the way they are playing and scoring goals," said McCall. "Inverness are still up there even though Terry [Butcher] has gone, so I've no problem about others being spoken about. But there is only one point between four teams and it is looking very exciting. We've been doing a lot of things right, it's just that the blips we've had along the way have been sore ones.

"We go [to Pittodrie] in a good mood. Without going over old ground, had we not lost the last-minute goal in the Scottish Cup, we'd be sitting here at this point thinking the season has been decent. With the changes we made in the summer, to win 10 of 17 games in the Premiership is an excellent effort by the group."

The prospect of further change is unnerving for a club shorn of such as Nicky Law, Michael Higdon, Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey during the summer. Both Anier and Ainsworth are on loan contracts which expire next month and McCall reiterated that his club are working to secure extensions from both Viking Stavanger and Rotherham United, respectively. "It would be nice if we could keep the two loanees and, if we do so, we'll be happy with the squad we have got," McCall added.

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