McCALL CAUTIOUS ABOUT CL SPOT

Post-match reaction to Motherwell's 1-0 victory over Hearts.

Last Updated: 02/05/12 at 08:48 Post Comment

Higdon scored the only goal of the game

Higdon scored the only goal of the game

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Motherwell manager Stuart McCall was reluctant to celebrate Champions League football just yet after his side moved within touching distance of a place in Europe's elite competition with a 1-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League victory at Hearts.

Michael Higdon's 16th goal of the season after 29 minutes secured a ninth away win of the season as Stuart McCall's side moved eight points clear of fourth-placed Dundee United.

To deny Well third place and a Champions League qualifying place, United must win their three remaining games - at Rangers tomorrow, against champions Celtic on Sunday and at Fir Park on the final day of the season.

Second-placed Rangers' financial troubles mean they are ineligible for European competition.

"We're not there yet," said McCall, who will be at Ibrox tomorrow hoping his former club Rangers beat United.

"If it is the Champions League and I keep saying 'if' because we've got to get there, it will be by default, because of the nightmare that Rangers have gone through.

"But for us to finish third will be an outstanding achievement. To get Europe alone has been terrific, but hopefully if we can clinch that place and it does end up being Champions League, then it would be beyond any wildest dreams."

McCall praised the work ethic of his side after a win at Tynecastle, a venue where the Steelmen lost 2-0 on their last visit.

"We came at Christmas Eve and we didn't turn up," McCall added.

"We gave them too much possession, so tonight we had a go.

"Everyone put a shift in for the side and that's what was needed.

"They have got individual players in the team that can hurt you. I thought we controlled them really well."

The goals of Higdon, who signed from St Mirren last summer, have been a major factor in Motherwell's results this term.

Tuesday night's strike owed a little to good fortune after Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald parried Jamie Murphy's shot into Higdon's path, but the finish was composed and clinical.

While praising the striker, McCall was reluctant to single out individuals.

"He had a little bit of criticism early in the season which I thought was nonsense," McCall said.

"He was probably one player at the end of games when managers come in for a cup of tea afterwards and they say: 'He was a handful today'.

"He might not be the quickest in running channels, but a lot of teams in the SPL would like him for his hold up play, his work ethic for the team and his goals.

"He's been outstanding, but most of them have. I would struggle to pick a player of the season this year, because we've had so many good performances.

"It's been a team effort."

William Hill Scottish Cup finalists Hearts had numerous opportunities but were unable to test Well goalkeeper Darren Randolph and missed the presence of Craig Beattie up front to remain sixth, a point behind Sunday's opponents St Johnstone.

Manager Paulo Sergio rued the decisive moment when Higdon pounced.

Sergio said: "Jamie made a save, the only save of the game, and they had a second ball to score their goal.

"We defended poorly at that moment. We shouldn't give the inside to Murphy, but we made that mistake and they scored a goal to get three points.

"We had two, three good chances in the first half and four in the second.

"Motherwell defended well but we had clear chances to score and we didn't."

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