Motherwell fans will hope Louis Moult’s 40th goal for the club does not stand as a farewell gift. What it does represent is three points for the home team, who responded to the challenge of losing the opening goal to Kyle Laffferty after half an hour.
Four first-half minutes might have blown Jon Daly’s chance of being appointed permanent Hearts head coach.
Goals from Ryan Bowman and Moult towards the end of the opening period turned the match on its head. A contentious episode midway through the second-half was rendered less significant than might otherwise have been the case as the home side held on. But Moult will grumble at being denied what he will contend was his 41st goal for Motherwell. The striker’s header from Elliott Frear’s cross was headed away from goal by Christophe Berra. While the Hearts skipper was clearly behind the line, whether the ball was over or not was less conclusive. The far side assistant referee Gary Hilland was well-placed to judge the incident .
Moult had already edged Motherwell ahead following strike partner Bowman’s equaliser in an eventful first-half.
It was another strike of quality from Moult to seal the points four minutes before half-time, his well-placed chip looping beyond Jack Hamilton into the far corner of the net after Jamie Walker had lost possession on the edge of his own box.
Four points from four tricky opening away games is not a ruinous return for Daly, who will retain hopes of succeeding Ian Cathro by being offered the post on a permanent basis. But it looked set to be a healthier tally of seven after Lafferty fired Hearts ahead with a low shot from 25 yards that flew into the net past Trevor Carson, whose defenders all backed off.
The striker made a beeline for the bench after scoring, high-fiving Daly and assistant manager Austin MacPhee in a clear act of support for them.
“The club have made the statement that they’re going to make a decision this week,” said Daly. “Whether that’s myself or someone coming in, it gives a bit more clarity to the role and situation.”
Daly was particularly frustrated at his side losing the lead within only seven minutes. Bowman stooped to head in Motherwell’s equaliser after a cross from Richard Tait had been headed down by Moult, who was his usual influential self before being replaced to rousing cheers after 79 minutes.
Fir Park devotees will hope it’s not the last time he is seen in a Motherwell shirt.
The focus was on the striker as much as ever yesterday with the transfer window preparing to shut at midnight on Thursday. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is clearly growing weary of the constant speculation surrounding Moult, who has told the club he is not ready to sign a new contract.
His current one expires at the end of the season.
“I can’t dictate whether he will be here or not [after Thursday],” said Robinson.
As for Hearts, Daly was disappointed with a performance that had initially promised much more, lamenting the failure to deal with Motherwell’s long-ball tactics after working all week on this in training.
Jamie Walker, a fitful performer for the most part and someone else whose future will become a more burning issue in the coming days, came closest to retrieving the situation for the visitors, seeing a shot tipped wide by Carson and another one drift just over the bar.