A late wonder strike from James McFadden was not enough for Motherwell as Hearts punished the Steelmen on the stroke of half time before going on to win 3-1.
And it shattered the clubs hopes of extending their unbeaten run and possibly going second in the table.
Those hopes were dashed after carelessly conceding an own goal on the stroke of half-time. Up until then the Fir Park men looked the more likely to score as Hearts failed to produce anything of note in front of Craig Samson’s goal.
That changed dramatically when Sam Nicholson’s shot deflected off Stephen McManus to hand the initiative to the Edinburgh side.
Hearts made the most of that fortunate opener adding two superb strikes from Callum Paterson and Arnaud Djoum in the second half to wrap up the points. James McFadden grabbed a late consolation with a terrific free kick and stake a claim for the best of three fabulous second half goals.
Mark McGhee stood by the side which earned a point at Firhill last week, which meant a front three of Louis Moult, Scott McDonald and Ryan Bowman.
It was the former Gateshead striker who forced the first piece of goal action after 14 mins. A swift break from their own corner flag sent ‘Well towards the visitors goal but Bowman’s attempted cross from 35 yards out was comfortably held under his crossbar by Jack Hamilton.
However, the striker’s contribution was more purposeful in a pressing three minute spell when the Steelmen should have opened the scoring.
In the 20th minute Bowman nodded down Richard Tait’s cross, allowing McDonald to tee up Craig Clay. His drive from 8 yards was net bound until Hamilton produced a fabulous reflex save to deflect the ball away.
Bowman was at the centre of the next attack haring down the right before laying the ball back to Lasley at the edge of the box but his shot sailed over the bar. Then Stevie Hammell’s quick throw in allowed McDonald to turn at the corner of the box before firing the ball low past the post.
‘Well’s initiative took a set back when Chris Cadden limped off after 25 minutes with Lee Lucas coming into the centre of midfield. This resulted in Moult dropping deeper on the right leaving Bowman as the solitary target man.
Although the Edinburgh side then enjoyed more possession there was little threat on the home goal.
Indeed it was Hamilton who saved Hearts five minutes from the break when McDonald skipped past Igor Rossi before blasting the ball straight at the ‘keeper who did well to parry it wide of his goal.
Although ‘Well we’re always likely to pay for those missed chances they had only themselves to blame when Hearts made the breakthrough in the final minute of the half.
Having failed to clear the initial corner, Samson flapped at Walker’s free kick before Lasley cheaply conceded possession 25 yards out. Even then Sam Nicholson’s weak drive posed no threat until the ball took a wicked deflection from Stephen McManus to send it in the opposite direction and nestle just inside the post with Samson helpless.
A fortunate goal to the good Hearts looked a different side in the second half although ‘Well fans thought they were celebrating an equaliser after 52 minutes. A Lucas cross found McDonald and although his shot rattled off the crossbar, Moult popped up to nod the ball over the line despite Hamilton’s efforts to palm it back into play. But the celebrations were curtailed as the assistant’s flag signalled offside against McDonald.
A low strike from Walker forced the first save from Samson, the ‘keeper spreading himself to push the ball away.
A couple of glancing headers from Bowman and Moult produced a couple of comfortable saves from Hamilton but the Tynecastle men looked more menacing in attack and it was no surprise when they made it 2-0 after 66 minutes to make sure of the points. In truth it was a goal worthy of winning the game, Callum Paterson collecting Sammon’s cutback to smash a terrific 22-yard strike high into the net.
The double substitution of Lionel Ainsworth and James McFadden breathed some life into ‘Well’s play and McDonald’s diagonal drive was not far away from pulling a goal back.
It was Hearts who scored again, though, with another long range effort, Djoum curling the ball high past Samson.
The ‘Well fans who stayed to the end were treated not only to a consolation goal but a Faddy special, when the substitute curled a superb free kick from 25 yards over the wall and under Hamilton’s bar.
[tab:As it happened]
Lewis Irons at Fir Park
FT | 1-3
A disappointing result for Mark McGhee’s side. Conceding right on half-time changed the game. Match report and reaction to follow
’90 | 1-3
A moment of sheer class from McFadden. The club legend curls an unstoppable free-kick from 30 yards into the top corner.
’90 | 0-3
The fourth official indicates 3 minutes of added time here at Fir Park.
‘87 | 0-3
Motherwell string together great passes and Ainsworth goes close from the edge of the box curling a right-footed effort just wide
’85 | 0-3
Prior to the goal, Hearts made their final sub, replacing Walker with Muirhead
’83 | 0-3
Goal for Hearts – It’s not cleared and Arnaud Djoum is clinical from outside the box, curling it into the far corner.
’82 | 0-2
Tony Watt goes very close. Striking low and hard from the edge of the box and hitting the post.
’80 | 0-2
Hearts make their second change: Sam Nicholson is replaced by Prince Buaben
’77 | 0-2
Richard Tait comes across to cover and thwart Tony Watt who was racing towards goal. Good defending from the right back
’75 | 0-2
A good cross from Lionel Ainsworth is headed over by Louis Moult from just inside the box
’72 | 0-2
So close for the ‘Well! McDonald strikes at goal from the edge of the box on his left foot and it’s agonisingly over the bar
’70 | 0-2
Double sub for the ‘Well: Ryan Bowman off for James McFadden and Keith Lasley off for Lionel Ainsworth
’69 | 0-2
Hearts sub: Connor Sammon leaves the field to be replaced by Bjorn Johnsen
’66 | 0-2
Goal for Hearts – Paterson thunders a left-footed shot past Samson from the edge of the area.
’65 | 0-1
Watt does well to work his way to goal, but Heneghan slides in brilliantly to block his effort.
’63 | 0-1
From the free-kick, Hammell’s delivery is perfect for Moult but it’s straight at Hamilton again
’62 | 0-1
Paterson is afforded time in the box and his strike is off target. ‘Well break through Bowman but Rossi hacks him down – yellow
’60 | 0-1
Richard Tait plays a wonderful ball onto the head of Ryan Bowman, who’s header is straight at Hamilton.
’58 | 0-1
Walker arrives on the edge of the box to get on the end of a cut back, but his shot soars over as he hits it on the bounce
’55 | 0-1
McDonald finds himself free on the edge of the box, but he can’t get the ball out of his feet and scuffs his shot.
’52 | 0-1
‘Well have it in the back of the net but it’s offside. Lucas’ cross is smashed off the bar by McDonald then headed in by Moult
’50 | 0-1
Hammell’s corner is gathered by Hamilton but Hearts lose possession as they try to counter
’48 | 0-1
Nicholson’s cross is cleared but only as far as Kitchen, who tries a long range effort that flies over the bar.
’46 | 0-1
The Steelmen kick off at the start of the second half.
HT | 0-1
Hearts strike on the stroke of half time to take a narrow lead into the break.
’45 | 0-1
Goal for Hearts. It’s a cheap one to concede as the ball isn’t cleared and Nicholson’s long range effort deflects past Samson
’44 | 0-0
Nicholson’s cross is turned behind for a corner. The winger whips it in from the set-piece but it’s over-hit.
’42 | 0-0
Walker fires a low cross across the face of goal but Heneghan gets his foot on it and it skewers towards Samson who gathers it
’40 | 0-0
Moult finds the feet of McDonald who works himself a yard and gets his shot away, but from a tight angle Hamilton saves.
’37 | 0-0
Walker races through on goal but dithers on the ball and fails to get his shot away early. Good chance for the visitors
’30 | 0-0
Clay slides in superbly to win a corner and keep the visitors pegged back, but the resulting delivery is cleared
’25 | 0-0
It’s an early ‘Well sub: Chris Cadden limps off and is replaced by Lee Lucas, who is making his league debut
’24 | 0-0
It’s McDonald’s this time. The Aussie striker collects the ball from Hammell’s throw, turns and let’s loose – but it’s wide
’22 | 0-0
Another good break from the ‘Well. Bowman cuts the ball back to Lasley who strikes one at goal but it’s over the bar.
’20 | 0-0
Tait’s cross is nodded down by Bowman to the feet of Clay who forces a great save from Hamilton. Best chance of the match so far!
’19 | 0-0
Rossi tries an ambitious effort from range but it flies well over the crossbar.
’18 | 0-0
Nicholson swings in a corner and eventually it is stabbed clear by McManus.
’15 | 0-0
Bowman attempts an audacious chip as Motherwell surge forward on the break, but Jack Hamilton rises high to catch it
’10 | 0-0
Rossi brings McDonald down from behind. Hammell’s free-kick is headed goalward by Heneghan, but the linesman has his flag raised
‘7 | 0-0
Tait tries to flight a diagonal ball into the box but Hamilton collects it. Down the other end Watt’s shot is blocked by McManus
‘4 | 0-0
Paterson puts in a good challenge to thwart Moult as he races into the box.
‘3 | 0-0
Hammell picks up the ball deep in the Hearts half down the left, but under hits his cross and it’s cleared
‘1 | 0-0
Hearts win an early free-kick but the delivery is headed clear by McManus
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: