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Plastic will not be the difference in battle of Ice and Steel

STUART McCALL insists he will not use Stjarnan's artificial surface as an excuse tonight if his side crashes out of Europe despite suffering humiliaton on their last match on plastic.

Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, gives instructions from the sidelines during his side's 2-2 draw with Stjarnan at Fir Park last Thursday. Picture: SNS
Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, gives instructions from the sidelines during his side's 2-2 draw with Stjarnan at Fir Park last Thursday. Picture: SNS

Motherwell know they must win or grab a high-scoring draw to avoid a surprise exit in the Europa League in Iceland. Opponents Stjarnan have lost just once this season and fancy their chances after the Lanarkshire side blew a two-goal lead in the first leg.

But their artificial surface is far removed from the new state-of-the-art pitches so prevalent in Scotland and McCall still has nightmares from their last match on plastic, when they were bundled out of the William Hill Scottish Cup by Albion Rovers at Hamilton's New Douglas Park last term.

He called it one of the worst results in Motherwell's history, but do not expect McCall to moan about the pitch if they don't qualify this evening. "Whatever happens, we won't make the pitch an excuse," McCall said. "It's a big park and they're expecting a lot of rain.

"We just need to get used to it - it won't be an excuse. We don't like going back to the Albion Rovers game at Hamilton, but I think it's easier on artificial pitch to sit in and defend.

"If you put balls in behind then they'll run out and that's how we got caught out last year. The Albion Rovers game was our last game on an artificial pitch - that's why we trained at Braidhurst to get it out of our system! I just hope history doesn't repeat itself."

As frustrated as McCall was at blowing that lead, he remains confident they can go through. Motherwell also had a must-win game at Pittodrie on the last day of the season and secured a famous 1-0 victory to clinch the runners-up spot, so having to win a key game is nothing new to him and his team.

"If you look at last season's game against Aberdeen we went with a plan to still be in the game with 15 minutes to go and it managed to work out," McCall pointed out.

"Aberdeen had lost more than one goal just once in that season so we knew if we lost one goal we would probably need to score two. But I can see this game being similar to the home game. We'll probably have a lot of possession and they're very good on the counter attack as you could see. I think it will be an open game. It's a big park and it's all to play for.

"I've heard them say we're still favourites but I don't think there's any favourites. They're on a run of one defeat in 16 and as much as they say they're semi-pro they train every day and night."

KR Reykjavik, the Icelandic champions, were thrashed by Celtic this week, but McCall is not reading too much into that. "Celtic's result doesn't make a difference," he said. "I've said all along that from what I've seen Stjarnan are a better side than KR Reykavik, certainly going forward.

"It could be said both teams are better going forward than they are defending. We'll be similar to what we were at home but we're not going and playing in a way where we'll sit in. We'll be going forward and trying to score more than them, basically."

An unlikely candidate to do just that is Stuart Carswell. The midfielder will be making his 80th appearance tonight, but has yet to find the net for Motherwell. Carswell thought he was ready to break his duck in the first leg when John Sutton cut the ball back to him, but he blazed over from 10 yards when his side were 2-0 up and cruising. "I'm trying to forget that," he admitteed. "It was a great chance.

"The ball was cut back to me and I was about 12 yards out and I've leaned back. I should have maybe side-footed it, but I went for power. It's a chance we might regret, but hopefully not.

"At 2-0 up we felt comfortable and if we had made it 3-0 it would have put a major dent in their confidence as well. But when they got the penalty and goal through a ricochet, it gave them a wee lift.

"Then they started to press. Their other penalty in the 90th minute was a bit of a sickener, but you saw the way they celebrated, they maybe think they have got the job done.

"So we need to get over to Iceland and show them. I'm confident we can do well there. I think we can get a few goals so we just need to shore it up at the back and be more stable and not give them as many chances, which I think we won't because we are a lot fitter now."

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