Kris Jack at Tynecastle
A Danny Grainger thunderbolt in the 14th minute was enough to condemn Motherwell to their second SPL defeat of the season as Hearts ran out 1-0 winners at Tynecastle.
In a game that had plenty of half chances for both sides, it was Grainger’s speculative effort which kept all three pints in Gorgie, as the Steelmen failed to go ahead of Hibernian in third place ahead of facing Pat Fenlon’s men next Friday.
For the Well’s first match since the 0-2 defeat to Celtic a few weeks back, Stuart McCall made a couple of changes, Adam Cummins red card forcing him out through suspension for the trip to Tynecastle.
Simon Ramsden would partner Shaun Hutchinson at the back, with Fraser Kerr slotting in at right back, allowing Tom Hateley to push in to midfield. Jamie Murphy started ahead of Estonian internationalist Henrik Ojamaa in the Steelmen attack.
John McGlynn named an unchanged side from that which fell to a 1-0 defeat to Celtic last time out. Captain, and Jambos top scorers his season, Marius Zaliukas anchored the hosts defence, with youngster Callum Paterson looking to continue his impressive start to this, his first SPL campaign.
The game started brightly for Motherwell as Jamie Murphy flashed an effort on goal after cutting in past Ryan McGowan on the left. His well struck, low effort was nudged wide by Jamie McDonald at his right hand post, as the Well looked to impress from the off.
Hearts responded by playing some pretty football, with Arvydas Novikovas making a nuisance of himself in front of Fraser Kerr. Indeed, Lithuanian Novikovas was played in at the edge of the box by Andy Driver, only to be strongly challenged by Simon Ramsden. Had he gone down, the hosts would have had a decent penalty shout, but instead, and to his credit, he stayed up but lost the chance.
Darren Barr then curled an effort from the edge of the box wide of Darren Randolph’s right post having been teed up by Driver before the hosts took the lead in spectacular fashion.
Danny Grainger picked the ball up midway inside the ‘Well half, was given space to drive in to before unleashing an unstoppable effort across and beyond Randolph and in to the net from 25 yards. It was a magnificent strike for the former St Johnstone man, which the home fans noisily applauded.
As ‘Well battled to get back in to the game, Keith Lasley, Jamie Murphy and Chris Humphrey all tried in vain from around the edge of the box to beat MacDonald, but could not find the back of the net.
Michael Higdon was having a frustrating game up against Zaliukas, with the Hearts captain winning most of the high balls and free kicks when challenging with the ‘Well hitman.
Hearts could have extended the lead when a Grainger free kick picked out Andy Webster at the back post but his first touch knocked the ball high back across goal and the chance was gone.
As the half ended, Darren Barr flashed a shot wide of Randolph’s goal, before Shaun Hutchinson limped off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Stuart Carswell for the second half.
The Steelmen looked galvanised after the break and a sweeping move almost brought them level. Nicky Law pinged a great diagonal ball out to Humphrey on the right, who beat Grainger to square the ball for Higdon at the neatly spot. The big striker got a great first time connection, but could not place it the right side of the post.
Hearts responded by taking hold of the midfield and creating some chances of their own, Barr headed wide from Zaliukas’ flick on from Grainger’s corner. Former Well target Ryan Stevenson then flashed two efforts wide of the upright, one aimed top corner, the other low beyond the base of the post.
‘Well were keeping the ball confidently and Humphrey, who had breezed past Grainger all day, then stole the ball from the full back to set up Higdon but his shot from the edge of the box was right down MacDonald’s throat.
Substitute John Sutton was barely on the park five minutes when he almost made it 2-0 to the hosts, when a corner was headed back in to the box by Driver, but the former Motherwell striker’s reactive header dropped just wide of the far post. Henrik Ojamaa then replaced Jamie Murphy as Stuart McCall looked to change his attacking options, and it almost worked instantly.
Another ball in from the right, this time by Hateley, found Higdon at the back post. His header back was knocked goalwards by Nicky Law, but with MacDonald beaten, Andy Webster was on hand to clear off the line.
Opportunities for both teams then dried up, with Callum Paterson and Henrik Ojamaa shooting over for their respective sides as the game petered out. There was a flurry of excitement in the closing seconds as Darren Randolph went up for a late, late corner, but Hearts managed to dig the ball out of defence under pressure from the Irish keeper.
An equaliser failed to materialise for the visitors, as Hearts closed the game out to a 1-0 victory.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Tynecastle
FT: Hearts 1 – 0 Motherwell.
92mins – A scramble in the Hearts area with even Darren Randolph up. Hearts clear. Game looks gone now 🙁
90mins – Three minutes of added time. ‘Well have a corner.
89mins – Taouil fires a lot shot just wide before being taken off and replaced by McGowan from the bench.
86mins – Omar Daley comes on for Nicky Law as ‘Well go for it.
86mins – Sutton has a shot blocked on the edge of the area. Rebound spins to Paterson but he fires high and wide.
85mins – Five minutes to go now… Will Motherwell get themselves level or will Hearts hold on. C’mon the Steelmen!
81mins – Taouil booked for what I think was a hand in the middle of the park. Four Jambos in the book now!
76mins – Sub Robinson is booked for a poor challenge on Lasley.
75mins – Nicky Law’s header is knocked off the line by Webster. So close to a leveller for ‘Well.
73mins – Murphy comes off and is replaced by Estonian International Henrik Ojamaa…
70mins – Hearts make another sub. Darren Barr comes off and is replaced by Scott Robinson. Barr has played well to be fair!
68mins – Wow! Not sure how that didn’t go in. John Sutton heads wide after things pingball about the area for a second or two. Close shave.
65mins – Game has gone a little flat in the last few minutes… Few sloppy passes breaks up the flow of the match.
Attendance today: 11,572
60mins – Hearts make the sub as Novikovas is replaced by former Steelmen striker John Sutton.
59mins – Zaliukas booked for a crude pull on Keith Lasley. ‘Well have stepped it up a fair bit now.
58mins – Great chance for Motherwell – Higdon’s shot from the edge after Humphrey had robbed Grainger.
57mins – Hearts counter after ‘Well on the attack. Cutting in from the left, Driver invited to shoot but his effort goes just over the bar.
54mins – Nice one-two on the edge of the area between Murphy and Higdon but Hearts mop up.
53mins – Down the other end, Ryan Stevenson fizzes a shot from distance that flashes wide of the post. End to end stuff…
52mins – Decent wee attack there from ‘Well but can’t really capitalise. Hearts defence holds firm to their credit.
47mins – Offt, that should be 1-1. Great cut back from Humphrey finds Higdon but he smashes the shot narrowly wide.
46mins – Hearts get the second half underway! PA announcer here is brilliant to be fair!
HT: Both teams back and ready to get us going again. Good luck to the Fir Parkers. #COYW
HT: Confirm on that change with Carswell now on to replace Hutchinson as the Steelmen take to the park.
HT: No news on Hutchinson at the moment but looked, by the way he was going off, that it was a hamstring problem. Hopefully not.
HT: Seen the pen incident again at half-time – deffo seen them given before but would’ve been a wee bit on the “softish” side.
45mins – Not enough time to make that sub as referee blows for the half-time interval. Hearts 1 – 0 Motherwell.
44mins – Carswell is going to come on for Hutchinson. That’ll mean Hateley to RB and Kerr moving into the CB position with Ramsden.
43mins – Break in play here with Shaun Hutchinson down getting treatment. Hopefully he is okay – doesn’t look good though.
42mins – Darren Barr striding forward with the ball but his low shot from about 25 yards drags wide of the post. No trouble for DR…
40mins – Driver bursts away at speed down the flank but thankfully, for ‘Well, nothing comes of it.
38mins – Great bursting run from Humphrey down the wing leaves Grainger for dead. His cross into the area well cleared by Hearts.
35mins – Great chance for Webster against the run of play. Probably didn’t realise how much time and space he had. Scooped over.
34mins – BIG penalty shout; Webster through the back of Higdon. Looked like a handball afterwards too from here in the Press Box. Not sure what TV pictures look like though.
32mins – Driver booked for a trip on Law on the edge of the box. Few complaints from the English winger.
31mins – Motherwell have enjoyed a lot of possession in the last ten minutes. Need to try and make it count though.
30mins – Great ball from Law has Humphrey in space on the right flank. Cutting in and beating two, he drags a shot just wide of the post.
29mins – Low shot from Paterson forces Randolph into the low save but it’s comfortable for the Rep of Ireland International.
25mins – Decent ball into the area from Hammell but no one on the end. Slightly better stuff from the Steelmen in the last few minutes.
24mins – Shouts for handball against Higdon but not given by Willie Collum. Murphy picks up and curls a shot – well held by MacDonald.
21mins: Motherwell break well down the right. Humphrey dinks it in for Lasley but his shot is scooped high over the bar. Little better there
20mins – Hearts are dominant at the minute. The Steelmen really struggling to keep a hold of the ball.
15mins – Stevenson gets on the end of a Novikovas cross but it goes wide. Hearts on the front foot, ‘Well need to weather the storm atm.
14mins – Danny Grainger blasts an absolute belter from distance high into the top corner. Absolutely nothing Randolph could do. 1-0 Hearts.
12mins: Hearts have a shout for a spot kick as Novikovas goes down in the area but it would’ve been harsh I think. Red having none of it!
10mins: Hearts come within inches of taking the lead. Driver sends a lovely curling shot from the edge of the ‘D’ just wide of the post.
7mins: Nice ball into the channel has Motherwell struggling but lineo has his flag up thankfully. Hearts might have been in there.
6mins: Ramsden robbed in the middle of the park. Hearts break through Driver but ‘Well get back in enough numbers to mop up the danger.
5mins: Hearts get good width down the left but the ball into the middle was eventually cleared by Simon Ramsden in the ‘Well area.
1min: Unsure if that was a save by MacDonald or a deflect wide. Either way, decent start for McCall’s men.
1min: Jamie Murphy has the first effort at goal. Low drive takes a slight deflection and bounces out for a corner kick to the Steelmen.
1min: Motherwell to get us going here at Tynecastle (eventually). #COYW #SIWY
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I felt the way we were pressing we would get a goal, but it wasn’t to be our day, but they are two very tight teams and two good teams.
“We’re disappointed to lose the game, in a game I thought was well competed. You never like to lose games, there’s ways to lose games, there’s being absolutely appalling – not trying or whatever.
“Today, I thought we were as good them, we matched them – a good Hearts side – we will take a lot of positives from it.”
Hearts manager John McGlynn:
“It was a gritty performance and, because of that, I thought we just shaded it.
“The three points were so vital for us.
“If we can get three points against Ross County, which will not be easy, we will be not too far for the target we set for the first quarter.”