The task of selecting your favourite top ten games from the 90s is an almost impossible one. It was such an eventful decade for Motherwell that is tremendously difficult to select just ten. So the selection below might not match your own, but every one of them had a major bearing on the decade that was the 90s for ‘Well. In no particular order, here goes……
01. 1991 Scottish Cup Final Motherwell 4 Dundee Utd 3
The obvious one to start with. Reaching a Cup Final was something I think we had all dreamt of and every ‘Well fan will have played out in their minds how the Final would be won. In reality, the Cup was secured in a fashion that the biggest daydreamers would have dismissed as sheer fantasy.
Calling it a classic is to do a huge injustice. An epic? Well, maybe you are getting there. This match had everything….and more!
Utd hit the post and had a goal disallowed early on and was rocked when Iain Ferguson headed home just after the half-hour mark. Motherwell went two up through Ian Angus in the second half but by this time goalkeeper Ally Maxwell had suffered what was discovered to be a ruptured spleen, thanks to a shocking elbow from John Clark. Dave Bowman pulled one back for Utd before Phil O’Donnell, just 18 years old, stooped to head ‘Well into a 3-1 lead.
Just when it seemed the Cup was set for Fir Park, John O’Neil pulled one back for the Arabs, and with seconds remaining the loathsome Darren Jackson made it 3-3 to take the game to extra time. With Maxwell looking like he could collapse any minute the initiative looked to have swung United’s way. Not so and in the first period of extra-time super sub, Stevie Kirk won the Cup for Motherwell with a header and wrote himself into Motherwell folklore.
Almost 30,000 in claret and amber cheered the Dossers on inside Hampden that afternoon, and over 100,000 lined the streets of Motherwell and Wishaw the following day as ‘Well paraded the Cup. Sadly by the time the new season came a little over, 6000 made it back to Fir Park to see the Cup holders in action. Still, the 18th of May will have a special place in the heart of every Motherwell fan for the rest of their lives.
02. 1991 Scottish Cup Semi-Final Replay Motherwell 4 Celtic 2
Despite the fact we went on to lift the trophy in an amazing final against Dundee Utd, this is the match many Motherwell fans cherish most from that memorable Cup run.
All signs pointed to a Celtic victory. Completely out of the running for the league, this was their last chance at silverware. Added to that, Celtic we were told by the media, don’t lose replays. But with a record against the Hoops that was bettered by none at that time, if anyone was going to beat Celtic in that replay it was Motherwell.
As the papers suggested Celtic looked like a totally different team from the one Motherwell had drawn 0-0 with the previous midweek and they stormed into action having a goal disallowed early on. They continued to throw everything at Motherwell in search of the early goal and got it shortly when an already net bound effort was finally put over the line by ‘Well skipper Tom Boyd.
‘Well could have collapsed but dug in and leveled through Dougie Arnott midway through the half. Celtic however upped the pace again and regained the lead through Anton Rogan. The Glasgow side should have killed the tie-off before the interval but was left to rue those missed chances.
Not long after the interval, Dougie stooped to head past Bonner to make it 2-2 and turn the match on its head. Motherwell continued to press forward and sent their supporters wild midway through the second half with a goal of the week month decade from Colin O’Neill. Picking the ball up around 35 yards from goal he sent in an unstoppable drive past Pat Bonner before running to the ‘Well fans to celebrate with his trademark ‘Hugo Sanchez’ flip. Well until the rest of his teammates nearly crushed him to death midway through it.
Celtic once again flung everything at Motherwell in an attempt to rescue the tie, but with seconds remaining ‘Well rubbed salt in their wounds when Stevie Kirk curled a shot into the top right-hand corner to confirm Motherwell’s place in the final for the first time since 1952.
03. 1994 UEFA Cup Round 1 Borussia Dortmund 1 Motherwell 0
Although had already played GKS Katowice and HB Boltfelag in European competition, this kind of fixture is what everyone dreams of when they make it into Europe. Pitting your wits against one of the continent’s finest, a huge payday for the club, and best of all a trip for the supporters that would be remembered for the rest of their lives.
This particular trip was made all the more memorable for the fact that Motherwell produced one of their best-ever performances and came close to toppling the future European Champions on their own patch. It wasn’t as if ‘Well went to Germany to defend and try to scrape a result, they went to Germany and played some fantastic football. Defending well, passing the ball superbly, and carving out a number of opportunities to score. It was an awesome display by Alex McLeish’s side which clearly caught out Dortmund.
In the end, the home side was fortunate to register a 1-0 win, the goal coming in the second half through Andreas Moller. We really should have taken them back to Lanarkshire at least on level terms and even now it’s easy to wonder what might have happened had Tommy Coyne put on his three good chances away in the first half in the Westfalen.
04. 1997 Scottish Premier League Rangers 0 Motherwell 2
Little under two years after Motherwell had finished runners-up in the Premier League they looked almost certain to be heading into a play-off with Lanarkshire rivals Airdrie. With just two games remaining, we were rooted in 11th place with fixtures against Rangers and Dunfermline to play.
Dunfermline at Fir Park might have been a possibility to pick up points but since we needed at least four from six to avoid the play-offs and the other game just happened to be against a Rangers side needing one more win to claim their 9th successive title, things looked rather bleak.
Sky moved the game to Bank Holiday Monday so the nation as well as fifty-odd thousand Rangers fans could enjoy the ‘Gers post-match celebrations and little over 200 Motherwell fans were in Ibrox when the match kicked off.
Amazingly it was Motherwell who took complete charge of the game and it was over three minutes into the game before the ball was out of their half. After just five minutes Motherwell took an unlikely lead through Owen Coyle and proceeded to give the home side the runaround for the remainder of the half.
In the second period, Rangers attempted to up the pace but Motherwell fought valiantly to hang on to their hopes of survival and weathered the Ranger’s storm. With just eight minutes left, Motherwell broke upfield and a lunging challenge from Ian Durrant sent Mickey Weir tumbling in the box. Penalty! Up stepped Owen Coyle to make it 2-0 and send the tiny band of ‘Well fans absolutely delirious.
From being seemingly doomed, we had beaten Rangers on their ground and moved into 10th place. It was back in our own hands once again.
05. 1997 Scottish Premier League Motherwell 2 Dunfermline 2
Following on from Ibrox we had the final weekend of the season. ‘Well were at home to mid-table Dunfermline, Kilmarnock faced Aberdeen at Rugby Park, and Hibernian, now stuck in 11th thanks to ‘Well’s unlikely triumph at Ibrox, were away to already relegated Raith Rovers.
While there was concern that Hibs would easily get past Raith it was generally felt that it could have been worse than Dunfermline at home. All we needed to do was match or better the Hibs result and we were safe. Lose and Airdrie would be all out to get us.
By hook or by crook the ‘Well game kicked off late and soon news filtered through that Raith had taken an early lead. Shortly after the Edinburgh side equalised but that was soon forgotten when ‘Well took the lead through a cracking volley from Mickey Weir. Could one of the most ardent Hibbees in the game be about to send his old team and boyhood heroes into the playoffs? Well no actually, as before the interval the Pars equalised and shortly after the re-start scored again to put Motherwell in serious trouble.
And that’s the way the situation stayed for a good twenty-odd minute too many. Elsewhere the scores were level in each match and as things stood ‘Well were heading for the playoffs.
With about eight or so minutes left the scenario turned on its head. Motherwell were awarded a free-kick some 25 yards from the goal. In what turned out to be his final goal for the club in his final appearance, Dutchman Mitchell van der Gaag rifled the ball past Ian Westwater to spark scenes of delirium around Fir Park.
Cheers filled the air as the other games ended and broke the tension of ‘Well having to hang on desperately for the last few minutes. At last, the referee blew for full-time and ecstatic supporters poured onto the field to celebrate our survival. It was close, but we had made it!
06. 1993 Scottish Premier League Motherwell 2 Falkirk 1
Earlier in the decade, ‘Well had put us through a similar ordeal that climaxed in another fantastic end-of-season finale. Having been isolated before Christmas, ‘Well had clawed their way back to go into the penultimate match with a 2 point lead over Falkirk and a 3 point lead over bottom-of-the-table Airdrie.
It was make or break time for Motherwell with a home fixture against 11th placed Falkirk followed by a trip to Broomfield on the final day – and few fancied the prospect of going there needing a win to stay up. Things started well with captain Chris McCart putting Motherwell ahead in the first half. Our dominance at that stage couldn’t be sustained however and the Bairns pummelled away at the Motherwell rearguard for long spells before netting a deserved second-half leveller.
If anyone looked like they were going to go on and win it was the visitors but Motherwell fought back as the game looked like it was heading for a draw.
With time running out veteran winger Davie Cooper released ‘Well legend Dougie Arnott on the left. The former Pollok striker caught everyone out with a left-footed strike that skimmed across goal and past Ian Westwater in the Falkirk goal to send the ‘Well fans wild and relegate Falkirk and Airdrie in one fell swoop.
07. 1994 Scottish Premier League Motherwell 5 Falkirk 3
Having been condemned to a season in the First Division by Motherwell, when the Bairns next returned to Fir Park there was much talk of revenge from the Brockville side. Both sides had started the season well and comments from the Falkirk end added further spice to the occasion.
By that time though Motherwell was a much different proposition from the team Falkirk had last faced and a brilliant start from the Dossers saw them go 2-0 up and seemed to put the Bairns in their place. At that stage could even afford the luxury of a rare penalty miss from Tommy Coyne.
Suddenly it all started to go horribly wrong. First, they pulled a goal back, then another, and before we knew what was happening the match had turned on its head and Falkirk were leading 3-2. Worse still we had even allowed Frank MacAvennie to score!
Not to be outdone though Motherwell fought back and in a blistering attacking display equalised, went in front, and just for good measure got a fifth. All this and TC missed another penalty!
Quite a day!
08. 1994 Scottish Cup Fourth Round Dundee Utd 2 Motherwell 2
This was the first time the sides had met in the Cup since the 1991 final and further spice was added to the occasion with it being a doubleheader in that ‘Well had beaten Utd 2-1 at Tannadice in the league the previous week.
‘Well got off to a perfect start and roared on by over 3000 traveling supporters went in from through none other than the 1991 match winner Stevie Kirk.
The home side quickly regrouped and by midway through the second half had got their noses in front through two excellent goals from Craig Brewster.
With about twenty minutes left, Paul McGrillen was brought down in the box and Tommy Coyne was given the chance to level from the spot. Van de Kamp however saved TC’s effort and ‘Well looked to be heading out.
With some 93 minutes already gone, ‘Well were giving it everything to get the equaliser and were awarded one last corner. Over it came and after a bit of bumping and boring in the box, the ball was lashed into the back of the net by John Philliben to spark tremendous celebrations amongst the ‘Well fans.
Brewster and Gordan Petric were almost in tears coming off the park. Softy was being lauded as if he’d just scored the winner in the final himself and outside United fans lost their head completely and were trying to take out their frustrations on ecstatic Motherwell fans.
Shame about the replay mind you…….
09. 1999 Scottish Cup Third Round Motherwell 3 Heart of Midlothian 1
There has been any love lost between Motherwell and Hearts. It’s very much from the Motherwell end mind you but in the absence of many Lanarkshire derbies over the last couple of decades for some ‘Well fans a game against the Jambos has come to be viewed in a similar light.
That they were holders of the Cup at the time they were paired with ‘Well in this Scottish Cup encounter, only added to the excitement. Sky chose to cover the game live and in the Motherwell side for the first time was former Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram, who had joined during the winter break on a 3-month trial.
‘Well went ahead in the first half with a goal-of-the-season contender as a superbly worked corner was bulleted home from outside the box by recent signing Ged Brannan. The first of what would be many corkers on live TV from the former Manchester City man.
When Owen Coyle made it 2-0 in the second half, that seemed to be that. Out of nothing however, the Jambos pulled a goal back from Jim Hamilton and gave ‘Well a nervy time of it before Tony Thomas scored a third for ‘Well and put the game beyond Hearts reach. The holders were out and boy did we enjoy it!
10. 1999 Scottish Premier League Celtic 0 Motherwell 1
To beat the Old Firm is always brilliant, to do it in their own backyard is better still, do to it in their own backyard with 10 men, well…………
Celtic under John Barnes are recalled as a laughing stock, but it has been quickly forgotten that under the former Liverpool legend, they had enjoyed their best league start in years. Against that Motherwell had promised much but delivered little and were struggling at the foot of the table, with only an unexpected 2-0 win against Dundee Utd three days earlier bringing the Dossers some cheer in recent weeks.
We started brilliantly however at Parkhead and almost went in front through John Spencer. The opener was only delayed for a couple of minutes though as Kevin Twaddle burst onto a superb through ball and slotted it past the keeper to score his first goal for the club.
That’s the way it stayed with Celtic becoming increasingly dominant as the match wore on. After about half an hour the scales were tipped further in their favour when Motherwell skipper Shaun Teale was red-carded.
If anything it seemed to make Motherwell even more determined and we made it to the break still hanging on to our one-goal lead.
The second half was total backs-to-the-wall stuff with everyone in claret and amber turning in a tremendous display. Perhaps none more so than Don Goodman, who at this time had still to win over the Motherwell fans. He started off upfront, got moved on to the right wing, and by the last half an hour was getting stuck right in as a make-shift right back.
After what seemed like about 180 minutes the referee blew and players and fans alike celebrated a famous victory. They proved it was no fluke either going on to beat Celtic 3-2 at Fir Park a few weeks later in another thriller.