Football/Soccer

Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell rues costly afternoon after loss at St Mirren

Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell was unhappy with two decisions at St Mirren (Steve Welsh/PA)
Gavin McCafferty, PA

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was counting the cost of their afternoon in Paisley after getting knocked out of the Viaplay Cup and seeing new striker Mika Biereth suffer a concerning knee injury.

The Steelmen fell to a 1-0 second-round defeat at St Mirren after Caolan Boyd-Munce scored a spectacular ninth-minute goal when he fired a loose ball into the top corner from 20 yards.

Motherwell struggled to get going until after the break, but Dan Casey appealed strongly for a first-half penalty after claiming former team-mate Mikael Mandron had handled.

With no VAR in place for the game, Kettlewell also felt referee Willie Collum missed a clear red card for Charles Dunne after the former Motherwell defender fouled on-loan Arsenal striker Biereth and received a yellow in stoppage time.

“I don’t want to sit here as a guy who continually makes excuses, but there are two massive decisions in the game,” the Motherwell boss said.

“One is a stonewall penalty in the first half, Mikael Mandron handballs it. I’m always a huge believer in a player’s reaction – he (Casey) knows it has come off the hand, that his hand is outstretched, which is everything that the video shows.

“But I’m more upset with the challenge in the second half from Charles Dunne on Mika Biereth, it’s an absolutely horrendous tackle, two-footed and straight-legged.

“I’ve now got a striker sitting on the treatment bed down there.

“I was instructed that these types of tackle were outlawed in the game. It’s an absolute shocker, red card all day long – but the excuse is that they don’t have VAR.

“I’m counting the cost. I’m really angered by the tackle that comes onto a striker, which by the way, as a young lad that we have on loan from Arsenal, we talk about protecting these creative players and all the rest of it, but I think that’s just words sometimes. We have to do more to try and protect them, because it’s a bad, bad tackle.

“He’s struggling to put weight on it and that would generally tell you this is going to get worse through time.

“The one thing I know now is that he’s struggling and has a fair bit of pain on the inside of his knee, so we’re going to have to strip it back and find out how bad it is.”

On his team’s performance, Kettlewell said: “The disappointing thing I spoke about at half-time was the backward step we took after the goal.

“It spooked us a little bit and that’s not been us. We rectified a little bit in the second half but we should have shown more.”

St Mirren assistant manager Diarmuid O’Carroll was delighted for former Northern Ireland Under-21 international Boyd-Munce, who replaced injured captain Mark O’Hara ahead of the previous win over Dundee.

The 23-year-old former Middlesbrough and Birmingham midfielder celebrated his first goal for St Mirren and only the second of his career.

“It’s brilliant for him, good for confidence and his family were watching,” O’Carroll said.

“He hasn’t had that many first-team games. It was a massive day for him, just staying in the team because he made a little mistake last week. The gaffer stood by him because he’s a massive talent.

“Mark O’Hara is club captain and a big influence, but Caolan has shown he’s more than capable of coming in. When Mark’s back fit there’s no reason why he can’t keep someone else out of the team.

“He got an international call-up in March and he will again if he keeps this up.

“He does things that make you stand up and say ‘what a pass that was’ or ‘what a shot’ – like the goal. He just needs to keep working.

“He’s like a youth player in his development because he has only played 10 to 15 first-team games.

“(Northern Ireland assistant) Jimmy Nicholl was watching and I’m sure it will be a positive report going back to Michael (O’Neill).”