Motherwell U20s were denied all three points as Hearts scored late on to earn a draw at Fir Park tonight.
The Steelmen had gone ahead midway through the first-half when Kallum Higginbotham fired home from distance.
‘Well hit the post on two occasions but were unable to extend their lead and we punished late on when Billy King fired home the leveller with just four minutes left to play.
Jonatan Johansson picked a slightly more experienced ‘Well side than the one who lined up and won in the Highlands last midweek. Five players came in – Hollis, Kerr, Cummins, Higginbotham and Erwin, replacing Stewart, Ferguson, Neill, Cadden and Shirkie.
Hearts were certainly less experienced but, despite that, it was they who looked livelier early on and almost took the lead after thirteen minutes.
Billy King found some space 20 yards out and unleashed a vicious, swerving shot which beat Lee Hollis before crashing clear off the cross bar.
Motherwell were a little fortunate to escape again ten minutes later when a David Smith cross from the left was missed by Saunders but Sam Nicholson could only lash over from close range.
Hollis was called into action on the half hour mark when he reacted well to keep out a 20-yard free kick from Denis Prychynenko after Adam Cummins conceded a foul on the edge of the area.
Motherwell weathered the early storm and looked more potent as an attacking threat. Paul McCafferty had the hosts’ first effort at goal, striking high and wide after a terrific spell of possession.
That being said, it was still slightly against the run of play when the Steelmen got themselves ahead nine minutes from the interval. There looked to be little danger when Higginbotham picked up a loose ball 25 yards out, but he had other thoughts and his well-struck shot beat Mark Ridgers and ended up in the net off the keeper’s right hand post.
It could’ve been 1-1 at the break if hadn’t been for the heroics of Hollis once again. This time he did well to stay big and beat away a close range effort from David Smith, with Cummins completing the clearance to keep the lead intact as the half time whistle blew.
After both sides had a couple of half chances early in the second half, with David Smith shooting wide for Hearts and Kerr’s header being deflected for a corner at the other end, Motherwell had two glorious chances in a minute to double their lead.
McHugh was sent clear in the left edge of the box and his stinging shot produced a stunning save from Ridgers, who tipped the ball on to the post. The keeper was at it again a minute later, this time to deny Paul McCafferty low at his front post, again getting a finger to the ball and on to the post again.
With just over five minutes left Dom Thomas made a surging run down the left but he was to be denied by another wonder save from Ridgers, who had kept his side in the game up until this stage of the second half.
And, as often happens, Hearts punished ‘Well for the missed chances with a late equaliser. Hollis did well to save initially from Billy King but he had no chance when the ball was worked back to midfielder who beat the keeper with a low shot from 15 yards out.
It was the last action of the game, one in which Motherwell will be disappointed they didn’t hold out for a win after a much improved second half performance.
Motherwell: Hollis, Kerr, Leitch, Cummins, Saunders, Carswell, McCafferty, Erwin, McHugh, Higginbotham, Thomas.
Subs not used: Stewart, Neill, Johnstone, Shirkie, Higgins