JUST about the only incident worthy of discussion in this otherwise forgettable affair was the first-half clash between Darren Randolph, the Motherwell goalkeeper, and Callum Paterson, the Hearts striker.
Motherwell 0-0 Hearts
Referee: C Allan. Attendance: 4,147
When a shot by Darren Barr spun off Shaun Hutchinson, Randolph and Paterson both went for the loose ball. In the act of collecting, Randolph seemed to move his right leg in Paterson’s direction, a manoeuvre that
caught his opponent in the head. Crawford Allan, the referee, waved play on.
When it came to reflecting on what was a dour struggle between two stuffy sides, John McGlynn, the Hearts manager, felt that it might have been very different had the rules been properly applied.
“We thought that his foot was in a place where it probably shouldn’t have been,” said McGlynn.
“I don’t think the boy was being malicious, but I think they maybe got lucky. His leg seemed to go in an unnatural position. He didn’t have to go there.”
Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, admitted that fortune had been on his team’s side, which hadn’t always been the case this season.
On a day that was short of talking points, he could understand why reporters were making such an issue of the Randolph incident, but politely suggested that they adopt another line of inquiry.
“What about Hutchinson’s performance?” he asked. “If he’s not worth a million, I will show my backside.”
Let’s hope Motherwell settle for a six-figure sum. Hutchinson was indeed impressive, but in truth, this was a dull encounter from which Paterson was not the only one to emerge with a sore head. Given Hearts’ shortcomings up front, and Motherwell’s solitary victory at home this season, it is perhaps no surprise that a crowd of just 4,147 turned up.
Seven days after about 16,000 Hearts fans crammed into Tynecastle for what was being billed as the club’s last-ever match, only 586 of them showed for this one. A lunchtime kick-off, broadcast live on television, was one deterrent. Another was the cost.
If the Hearts supporters – who have bought £600,000 in shares – have any disposable income left to spend on their ailing club, better to do so at a home game.
Neither are Hearts an easy watch right now. Were it not for their state of emergency, the Gorgie side would be a hard sell.
When Ryan Stevenson drilled an early free-kick towards the bottom right-hand corner – prompting Randolph to divert with a strong left hand – it looked as if there might be a goal or two for the visitors,
but for the rest of the match, this was as frustrating as many had predicted.
Only Motherwell’s Chris Humphrey looked capable of providing the
necessary spark. One trademark dash past Danny Grainger set up Michael Higdon, whose header drifted wide. Then came another cross, this time from a standing position, which picked out the same striker. Higdon’s powerful header found the target, but Jamie MacDonald, the Hearts goalkeeper, was able to beat it away.
Apart from the penalty claim, Hearts’ only other opportunity in the opening period came when Paterson accepted possession with his back to goal. He spun his marker well, but the low shot lacked enough power to beat Randolph.
Grainger knew that Humphrey had the beating of him, which
was why he decided, early in the second half, to bodycheck the
Motherwell winger as he threatened to race away from him on the halfway line. The foul resulted in a booking for Grainger, who soon departed the scene, suffering from a leg knock he had taken in the first half.
That left Ryan McGowan to deal with Humphrey, as Barr moved to right-back and Mehdi Taouil was introduced to the midfield.
Jamie Walker briefly threatened to establish a Hearts breakthrough with a run and shot that tested Randolph but, within seconds, there was a better chance at the other end. Higdon, released by Jamie Murphy, had only the goalkeeper to beat, but MacDonald was quickly out at his feet, getting just enough on the ball to put the striker off.
As the game entered its final quarter, Motherwell lifted the tempo, with Humphrey doing to McGowan what he had done to Grainger. Several times he nudged the ball past the Hearts defender, and ran for it. The first of those culminated in a chip that landed on the top of the crossbar.
Then there was a step inside the full-back, followed by a crisp left-foot shot that MacDonald did well to turn round the near post.
The next time Humphrey knocked the ball by McGowan, Marius
Zaliukas quickly stepped across to intercept.
Higdon, though, was on the end of Motherwell’s best chances.
In one penalty-box scrap, the ball fell to him 12 yards out, but the shot was cleared by Dylan McGowan. Then, when Henrik Ojamaa cut the ball back from the byeline, Higdon got across his marker at the near spot, only to flash his deflected shot wide.
Deep into stoppage time, there was a header wide by McGowan, after a corner by Arvydas Novikovas, but a goal would have been more than Hearts, and possibly the match, deserved.