There has been a fair bit of movement in the striking department at Fir Park during the close season. The departures of John Sutton and Lee Erwin left Motherwell short in attack but manager Ian Baraclough has since addressed the issue with a number of signings. Here, Craig Cairns looks at the individuals competing to lead the line for Motherwell this season.
Initially released at the end of last season, McDonald has committed to the club for another year after prolonged negotiations. The Australian was crucial in facilitating the form that maintained Motherwell’s Premiership status into the current campaign. In fact, there is a direct correlation between McDonald’s arrival and their upturn in fortunes. Motherwell had gone eight matches without victory before McDonald’s debut and have not lost a match at home since, winning five of those eight. Their away form has left much to be desired but overall it was enough to escape the automatic relegation spot and to brush aside Rangers.
McDonald scored five goals and got four assists in his in 13 matches last season – just over a third of their goals in that time – while bringing out the best in those around him. He has done so by dropping deep and wide to link play and even moved into a central midfield position for a spell during the play off final. His arrival saw the likes of Erwin and Lionel Ainsworth record some of their best performances for the club.
Clarkson made 25 appearances for Dundee last season, scoring nine. That might not seem a bad scoring rate, however the 29-year-old scored eight of those goals in as many starts when first arriving at Dens before going on to score just once in his next 17. It is slightly surprising to see him back at Motherwell given that two new other new strikers have arrived and the club has brought McDonald back.
A former youth player at Motherwell, Clarkson made the breakthrough in 2002, scoring on his first start for the club. He went on to score 56 goals over a seven year spell and eventually won a move down south to Bristol City. Mixed performances saw him score just 25 goals over five years with three different clubs before returning to Scotland with Dundee last season.
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough has already brought Stephen Pearson and McDonald back to the club for successful second spells and they have proved invaluable. Just how important Clarkson will be remains to be seen. What is encouraging is that, during his scoring streak last season, Clarkson scored lots of different types of goals.
The 23-year-old joins from Wrexham after scoring 16 league goals – a goal every two starts – for the Welsh side last season. Moult managed 17 the previous season as a semi-professional with Nuneaton and will be looking to continue this impressive record when he makes the step up to the Scottish Premiership.
Last season, Moult reached the final of the FA Trophy with the Wrexham, opening the scoring and later scoring their extra time equaliser in a 3-3 draw. As well as this, he netted in both legs of the semi final, scoring six in the competition overall, and converted in the semi final and final penalty shootouts.
Moult came across very well in his unveiling to the press just after he signed, displaying a sobering awareness of his career and its progression. As he explains, his career stalled until he made the step down to semi-professional level with Nuneaton. His form there alerted Wrexham, who brought him up to the Conference Premier, where he continued to score goals and was pivotal in their run to the FA Trophy final. He’s a predatory striker who appears ready to grasp the opportunity Baraclough has given him.
By contrast, Motherwell’s new number 9 appeared slightly uncomfortable in front of the camera, churning out cliché after cliché. Fletcher spent time with both Manchester United and Liverpool as a youth, though his subsequent move to Burnley resulted in several unsuccessful loan spells at various English clubs. His release allowed him the chance to kick-start his career with York where he scored seven goals in 32 games last season, a few less than the 13 he managed the previous season after a similar amount of appearances.
Even though his numbers may not be as impressive as Moult, it should be noted that Fletcher has scored goals at a higher level in League Two. His performances as a strong, industrious centre forward, who uses his strength to get into position, during his first season with the Minstermen attracted interest from a number of clubs higher up the food chain. Despite the attention, Fletcher chose to stay put.
An injury towards the end of that first season stunted his development somewhat and he never quite recaptured the same form during his second season. Last summer, Fletcher had bigger clubs queuing up for his signature, this summer he was released by York after the club finished a disappointed 18th. Baraclough has made no secret of his admiration for the 24-year-old who scored the only goal of the game in the season opener in Inverness.
Given that he began to appear in the side more under the current manager, and with the departure of Lee Erwin, could be forgiven for thinking this may be his year to make his mark on the Motherwell first team. After impressing in the Under 20 squad under Jonathan Johansson, the now 20-year-old scored seven times in 12 appearances during a loan spell for Cowdenbeath during the 2012/13 season. This included four goals in his first four starts which led to him being awarded the SFL’s Young Player of the Month award.
Since his return his appearances for the first team have been sporadic and he has only managed one senior goal. Moore did start, however, in the recent friendly versus Heerenveen and played 30 minutes in the defeat at home to Bradford. Despite these appearances, the new arrivals mean that Moore has now been given the chance to impress on loan again, this time with Ayr United in League One. The loan only runs until January, so we may still see him back in the squad before the end of the season.