Alan Burrows at the Fir Park
Motherwell and Hearts were both forced to accept a point after playing out a scrappy 0-0 draw at Fir Park this afternoon.
Neither side really took a foothold in the game albeit Ryan Stevenson brought out a decent save from Darren Randolph early in the first-half, whilst Michael Higdon’s header forced Jamie MacDonald into a good save low to his left.
The Steelmen upped the tempo and probably just about shaded the second half, Chris Humphrey having the best chance with a stinging low effort that was well saved by the Hearts number one.
It wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory and both sides would perhaps accept a share of the spoils.
McCall named the same starting eleven that tore strips off Inverness last weekend but it was the visitors Hearts who started brighter and Darren Randolph had to be on his toes inside the opening minute to deny one-time Motherwell signing target Ryan Stevenson.
Shaun Hutchinson was adjudged to have felled Jamie Walker on the edge, allowing the midfielder to hit. His curling effort looked goal bound but for the outstretched hand of the Irish International to turn it round for a corner.
Higdon replied for the Steelmen shortly after but his header from a teasing Chris Humphrey cross bounced wide of the post.
Shortly after referee Crawford Allan waved away Hearts protest after a clash between ‘Well keeper Darren Randolph and Hearts striker Callum Paterson. The Steelmen stopper appeared to catch the youngster when coming out to collect a deflected through ball. Referee Crawford Allan was only yards away and waved away the protests.
The hosts were coming more and more into it as an attacking threat, but it proved a tough task against a well-oiled and disciplined Hearts defence. Chris Humphrey did manage to penetrate the Maroon rearguard with a terrific cross into the area for Higdon, but he was denied by MacDonald who got a great hand to turn it away.
As the game moved towards the break, it was the Fir Parkers who looked most likely to get themselves in front but, in truth, neither side created much in the way of guilt-edged chances.
Hearts full-back Danny Grainger, the difference between the sides at Tynecastle last month, appeared to pick up a nasty knee knock before the break. He lasted no more than five minutes of the second half before being replaced by Moroccan Mehdi Taouil as John McGlynn switched his side around.
The majority of the second half was played in midfield with both teams working hard but not producing much in the way of quality.
The game’s only real moment of quality came with ten minutes to go when, after collecting a Keith Lasley pass, Jamaican international Humphrey got to the edge of the area, cut inside and smashed a low shot that forced MacDonald into another good block.
Both sides searched for the winner but it wasn’t forthcoming. Ryan McGowan could have nicked it for the visitors deep into injury time when he got on the end of a Novikovas corner but his header bounced narrowly wide of Randolph’s left-hand post.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 0 – 0 Hearts
93mins: Corner to Hearts…. Headed just past by McGowan! Phew!
90mins: 4 minutes added on.
88mins: Motherwell sub, Francis-Angol on for Hammell.
85mins: Uh-oh, Hammell and Paterson clash heads. Hammy looks hurt. Thankfully he is up and moving.
81mins: Hearts sub, Holt off for ex-Motherwell star John Sutton
80mins: From the resulting corner, the ball falls to Higdon whose half volley is blocked. Encouraging!
80mins: Humphrey cuts in off the right and drills at MacDonald who palms wide.
74mins: Corner to Hearts… Finds its way to Holt who cracks a shot off from the edge of the box. Blocked by Hutchinson.
68mins: Off the bar from Humphrey! Frightening pace down the right flank gets him past McGowan and his cross comes back off the top of bar.
67mins: Hearts sub, Novikovas for Walker
63mins: Dangerous ball in from Taouil headed by Stevenson from 8 yards. Didn’t quite connect and Randolph is untroubled.
56min: Frustration as Murphy slides Higdon in who is only just beaten to the ball by MacDonald. Murphy’s shot then deflected wide.
55mins: Danger as McGowan drives into the box and angles a shot towards goal. Good sliding block from Hateley clears for a throw in.
53mins: Lasley releases Murphy with a clipped ball over the top. Wrongly ruled offside though!
50mins: Hearts sub, Grainger’s game is over as he comes off for Taouil. Looked like he was carrying a knock.
47mins: And that pressure almost paid off when Murphy whipped in a sublime ball to the back post. No takers though.
47mins: Good early pressure from Motherwell. Camped in the Hearts half.
46mins: Midfield duo Lasley and Law kick-off the second half.
HT: Teams are back out!
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Hearts. Goalless at Fir Park after 45mins.
45mins: Two minutes added on to the first half.
39mins: Grainger down holding his knee Looked like an awkward landing.
37mins: Stevenson tries his luck from 30 yards. Shot flies harmlessly past the post.
30mins: And straight up the other end, Ojamaa sees his shot bobble just past the post.
30mins: Patient build up from Hearts allows Paterson some space to shoot. His effort from 20 yards is straight to Randolph though.
28mins: Murphy looking sharp on the counter-attack. He dribbled 50 yards before laying off to Humphrey who overcooks the cross.
25mins: Hammell booked for hauling down his man to prevent a breakaway.
24mins: best chance of the game! Another great ball in from Humphrey which Higdon directs goalward, Tipped past by MacDonald.
19mins: Dangerous ball across goal from Paterson almost found Walker lurking at the back post. Hateley on hand to clear.
16mins: Bit of a slow start from Motherwell. Jambos on top so far.
11mins: Bit of a let off there! McGowan burst through between Cummins and Hammell. His touch was a bit heavy and Randolph collected.
7mins: First good chance for ‘Well. Humphrey with a fantastic whipped cross which Higdon lept and met with his head. Just past.
3mins: Early chance for Hearts. Stevenson with a drilled free kick. Great save from Randolph to tip past.
1min: And we’re off. Come on!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It was typical of what we thought might happen, a stalemate. They were probably slightly better in the first half, but in the second half we upped the tempo a bit and early on we had a couple of opportunities.”
“Their keeper made a few decent saves. I think a draw is a fair outcome. I believed them to be strong defensively and so it proved.
“When it’s a tight game you are hoping for that one chance to fall. The pleasing thing is we got a clean sheet.
“We were better in the second half and a draw is probably a fair result. It was always going to be a tight game.
“We maybe could have nicked but it wasn’t to be. There will be no doom and gloom.”
Hearts manager John McGlynn:
“If you make sure your opponent’s scoreline reads zero then you’ve obviously got a chance of winning the game at the other end.
“It was a hard-earned point for us. We had to ensure we didn’t open up and give early ammunition to Motherwell.
“There wasn’t too much goalmouth action but defensively we were very good. I thought we stifled them very well.”
“We’ve got to take the positives from that and we’ve found it difficult here in the past. A point’s not a disaster.”