McCall laughs off penalty jinx
Manager Stuart McCall joked about Motherwell's domestic penalty drought this season ahead of their Scottish League Cup quarter-final clash with Aberdeen at Fir Park on Wednesday night, but there was no mistaking his frustration.
The Steelmen have only had one spot-kick this season which Bob McHugh missed against Russian side Kuban Krasnodar in the second leg of their Europa League qualifying tie.
McCall and others at the Lanarkshire club believe they have been denied at least four or five good penalty claims in the Scottish Premiership, the most recent of which was in the 2-0 defeat by St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday when referee Calum Murray took no action when midfielder Paul Lawson's shot appeared to strike the hand of Saints' Gary McDonald.
McCall said: "Tomorrow's game can go to 120 minutes and possibly it can go to penalties.
"But I am still waiting for a ruling from the SPFL because we don't get penalties as you know and we might just go to a toss a coin.
"But because it is cup game, rules might change and so we practised penalties today.
"We have had one penalty kick this season - in Russia. They play the rules that if it hits your hand it is a penalty but unfortunately Bob missed it.
"But we have been practising them this morning and it might have made my mind up on who is on the bench because a few slotted them away nicely and a few blazed them over the bar.
"It is a bit tongue in cheek. Refereeing is a tough job, there is no doubt about that.
"But there has certainly been times this season when we merited penalty kicks and didn't get them."
Motherwell goalkeeper Lee Hollis remains on the sidelines with an ankle injury but McCall claims he was always going to keep number two Gunnar Nielsen in goals even though his horror mistake cost Well a goal in the 2-0 defeat against St Johnstone.
The former Everton, Rangers and Scotland midfielder said: "I was always going to play Gunnar in the cup anyway.
"He played at Livingston (in previous round) and I always had him down to play in this game.
"It was one of those things. He came in to the dressing and held his hands up. I just think it was a freak thing and it cost us a goal.
"There was no blame on him, we didn't merit anything from the game and there is certainly no finger pointing from me, the staff or anyone else."
Aberdeen midfielder Barry Robson will concentrate on meeting the specific demands of his manager rather than any other expectations after the club moved into second place in the Scottish Premiership ahead of their clash at Motherwell.
The Dons ended the first round of fixtures above their Lanarkshire opponents and early-season leaders Inverness after winning 2-0 at in-form Hibernian on Saturday.
That has whetted the appetitie of the Dons fans, more than 2,000 of whom were at Easter Road on Saturday, for the quarter-final at Fir Park.
Aberdeen ended a 13-game run without a league win over Motherwell in August and have given their supporters hope they can banish a similarly unwanted sequence of four consecutive bottom-six finishes.
Many Dons fans will not be content until their team wins their first trophy since 1995 but Robson is putting any external demands out of his head and focusing on satisfying the requirements of Derek McInnes.
The former Celtic player said: "The manager has the mentality, not of winning every week, but being at our best every week, especially work-rate and organisation-wise.
"He doesn't expect you to be terrific every week but he demands you to be working hard for your team-mates and giving everything you've got, and I think you can see that in all the players. It makes an awful big difference.
"Yes, there's an expectation level here at Aberdeen. There's been a lot of good players and managers here over the years. The fans expect us to do well and we're doing that at the minute but there's a long way to go.
"Everyone knows how hard it is to go to Motherwell and get a win so the feet are on the ground.
"We came in after the game on Saturday when the boys played terrifically well and the manager says we should enjoy it for the next 20 minutes and move on, because if you want to be a top player at a top club and win things, that's what needs to happen."