Murphy boosts Euro bid with winner

Murphy finished well in the 82nd minute to break Hibernian’s

resilient response to Liam Miller’s 32nd-minute dismissal.

Motherwell dominated even before Miller was penalised for a late

tackle on Jim O’Brien but Hibs deprived them of clear-cut chances

until good forward play from John Sutton set up Murphy. The win

took Motherwell five points off third-placed Hibs and extended

their unbeaten SPL run to eight games. Hibernian manager John

Hughes made five changes following the 5-1 thrashing by St

Johnstone on Wednesday with goalkeeper Graeme Smith and Derek

Riordan among those dropped. Murphy was a replacement for Lukas

Jutkiewicz after Motherwell’s top scorer suffered a knee injury.

Hibs also had a man sent off at Perth with the resulting suspension

depriving Hughes of striker Colin Nish, whose physical presence may

well have been utilised on poor Fir Park pitch, parts of which cut

up badly even in the opening minutes. Sutton saw a powerful 20-yard

strike saved after a scrappy start and Motherwell began to play

some decent passing football. O’Brien volleyed wide before Graham

Stack pushed the ball away after Murphy had diverted Giles Coke’s

20-yard effort. The hosts kept the pressure on but Hibernian had

the best first half chance after Stephen Craigan was penalised for

a pass back at the end of a dangerous Hibs break. Anthony Stokes

lashed well over from 10 yards after the indirect free-kick. The

match exploded into life when Miller caught O’Brien on the ankle

with a hard and late tackle, prompting his former Celtic team-mate

into an angry reaction. Miller was shown a straight red card by

Euan Norris while O’Brien received a yellow for pushing the Hibs

midfielder in the chest. Motherwell were unable to exploit their

advantage before the break and John Ruddy made his first save after

Alan Gow worked space to shoot. Motherwell pushed Hibs back after

the restart and Murphy shot over after a low near-post cross by Tom

Hateley before Sutton headed into Stack’s hands after another cross

from the full-back. Stack fumbled Sutton’s header wide following a

cross by substitute Chris Humphrey as Hibs continued to frustrate

their hosts. Motherwell came closer in the 75th minute when Keith

Lasley hooked the ball over Stack after Patrick Cregg had failed to

clear Murphy’s deflected shot but David Wotherspoon got back in

ample time to clear. Hughes brought on the attacking threat of

Merouane Zemmama but Motherwell’s pressure soon paid off. Sutton

held off Sol Bamba to lay O’Brien’s cross into the path of Murphy,

who cushioned a volley just inside the far post from eight yards.

Hibs pushed forward but Ruddy ensured his seventh clean sheet in

eight SPL games when he held Chris Hogg’s effort from a Zemmama

corner, and Murphy and O’Brien came close on the break.