Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson says he replaced Christian Ilic at half-time at Livingston on Saturday because he feared the midfielder was destined to receive a red card on his Ladbrokes Premiership debut.
Robinson hooked the 23-year-old ahead of the second half of the 0-0 stalemate at the Tony Macaroni Arena, bringing on Sherwin Seedorf, who added some much-needed impetus for the Steelmen.
Ilic was on a yellow card and, citing Livi’s plastic pitch as a factor, Robinson feared the worst for the former TSV Hartberg man.
“I took Christian off as I thought he was going to be sent off,” revealed Robinson.
“He was on a booking then went into another couple of tackles and, on that pitch, it’s sticky and if you make one wrong decision then you are playing with 10 men.
“So we needed that little bit of freshness – we were trying to win the game, trying to be positive. But there wasn’t a great deal of quality in the game.”
Robinson also felt the impact of Jermaine Hylton – hugely impressive during Well’s Betfred Cup matches – was lessened by the artificial surface in a contest that was largely attritional.
“If you walk on that surface, then it’s almost impossible to run with the ball,” claimed Robinson. “It’s bobbling everywhere, especially when it’s dry. It’s better when it’s wet.
“It wasn’t a game for wide players, which is why we didn’t start both of them. We will be much better than that in the future.”
Indeed, Robinson is acutely aware that a vast improvement will be required when they host Celtic next weekend, but he is content that the Steelmen have not shown their hand.
Hoops scout Peter Houston was in the stand, running the rule over the North Lanarkshire outfit.
He added: “We didn’t play the football we wanted to, but the good thing is Celtic won’t have seen how we can play.”
Meanwhile, Livingston boss Gary Holt believes his side were unfortunate not to claim all three points after watching ‘Well goalkeeper Mark Gillespie produce fine saves to deny Aymen Souda, Scott Pittman and Nicky Devlin.
“For the first game of the season it was really entertaining, with no holds barred from either side,” he said. “We were right at it.
“There was no quarter asked or given – and I think we had the better chances.
“I’m delighted with how we played, especially given the [Premiership] debutants, and with a bit of luck we could have won it.”
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