Motherwell 4

Hibernian 0


Motherwell Ferrere (Leitch 45), Nicholas (Lehmann 89) Hibernian O'Connor (Wiss 62), Arpinon (Riordan 78)

Subs not used

Motherwell Brown, Martinez, Ramsay Hibernian Andrews, Zitelli, Caig

REFEREE John Underhill


Motherwell None Hibernian Smith 15, Colgan 84

Attendance 5367

THE chewed fingernails betrayed an otherwise calm exterior. Franck Sauzee's mood had changed considerably in the three days since he questioned whether it was his players, rather than Ayr United's, who boasted first division credentials after they limped out of the CIS Cup semi-final.

Unfortunately, his players' performance did not alter greatly for the visit to Fir Park. For 45 minutes they were on a par of mediocrity with Motherwell . . . until Eric Black unleashed David Ferrere, a Frenchman whose hat-trick heroics belied the ridiculous fact that he's been without a club since last summer.

It is unlikely Sauzee had even heard of his countryman when the home teamsheet arrived in the away dressing room for his perusal. By the end, he would have cursed the man who bounded into the press room clutching the match ball and hoping that every Saturday could be so simple in the SPL.

Almost an hour had elapsed before Sauzee shuffled into the press room but, despite idle gossip suggesting he had resigned or, at the very least, meted out a post-match mauling, there was not a hint of hoarseness in his voice, nor, for that matter, a statement explaining the reasons for standing down.

''If I am sacked, okay, but I will never walk away,'' he said, answering the most awkward of questions with disarming ease. That it has come to this is the saddest aspect of all. It is impossible to feel anything but profound sympathy for Sauzee, who even in the company of a densely populated press pack, looks the loneliest man on the planet.

His players are not going out of their way to get him the sack - the only end result if a run of one win in 14 games continues - but the panic which pervades their play has caused a kind of paralysis. ''I cannot kill them because I still love them,'' he said.

A former team-mate compounded the misery inflicted on him by one of his ain folk but Dirk Lehmann, a fringe forward under Alex McLeish, cast aside his afternoon's achievements to express a mixture of sorrow and support for Sauzee.

''I am sure that Franck, with all his experience, will turn it around, but the response has to come from the players - they have to give something back,'' he said after setting up two of Ferrere's debut dunts and heading home one of his own.

''They need to pick up some points, but if they'd have beaten Celtic or Ayr United they would have been a different team. They are not playing with a lot of confidence but Franck is a confident person with great ability and has learned from some great managers.

''They have to believe in him but, I tell you, the quality in that dressing room is fantastic, it's just that their heads are down.''

St Johnstone's slumber may well be Sauzee's saving grace. An 11-point gap still exists despite a depressing run of form and the two games still to be played between the embattled teams are likely to prove decisive.

With vital first-team members Ulises De La Cruz, Ulrik Laursen, Paco Luna, Tam McManus, and Mathias Jack all missing through injury or suspension, Hibs' cause looked a lost one even before kick-off. However, Motherwell were not without their problems, either, with the free-scoring James McFadden out along with Yan Soloy and Steven Pearson.

It was not until Ferrere replaced the injured Scott Leitch at the interval that the home side sparkled. His ferocious free kick from 35 yards drew gasps of astonishment but scenes of celebration greeted his first shot in open play, drilling the ball past Nick Colgan. Already, the diagonal run and low drive looks like a trademark. Two more were scored in almost identical fashion while Lehmann interrupted the one-man show only briefly.

Ferrere has spent much of his time training with Eric Black's old team, Metz, whose manager, Albert Cartier informed the Motherwell manager that he would be worth watching. The 27-year-old, who was last registered with second division side Louhans, signed a one-and-a-half-year deal last week, but after watching the most astounding debut performance for many a year, Black is already considering extending his stay.

''We'll get him signed up for the next five years if he keeps that up,'' he said, as surprised as the rest of us by Ferrere's phenomenal 45 minutes.

How Sauzee could be doing with someone to give the Hibernian supporters something to shout about. Another shopping trip in his homeland might not be such a bad idea.