Hearts move into third place in the Premiership after victory over Motherwell proves that quality and not quantity counts
Scorelines give the final outcome of a match but they don’t always tell the full story.
Hearts bagged a 3-0 victory at Fir Park Stadium to move up to third place in the Premiership, five places above hosts Motherwell. But, in a highly-competitive match, it was not as easy as the scoreline or the taunts of the away fans would have you believe.
In terms of bare statistics, it was Steven Hammell’s men who racked up 26 shots, compared to 10 from Hearts. But the devil is in the detail, with the Gorgie side tipping the scales narrowly in their favour when it came to counting up the efforts on target. Hearts scored 50% of their six, Motherwell failed to convert any of their five.
The home side need to take their share of the blame for that, surrendering goals to Lawrence Shankland and two to Alan Forrest more easily than their gaffer would have liked, while also lacking a killer instinct at the other end.
Twice they hit a post, once they were denied by the crossbar and, on more occasions than they will care to remember, they were foiled by the brilliance of Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
And, when the ball did hit the net, they were left frustrated by the assistant referee’s flag.
With the league already looking tight, that kind of profligacy could be costly if they cannot rectify things quickly.
There were openings for Joe Efford and Ross Tierney as they gave Hearts little time to settle into things following the Conference League excursion to Latvia. But if the usual crispness wasn’t there, Robbie Neilson’s men had an unwavering will to keep Motherwell out any way possible, while testing their opponents’ resolve at the other end.
In the 18th minute Lawrence Shankland showed them how it should be done, capitalising on Ricky Lamie’s poor defensive header. A fierce close-range right-footer was saved by Liam Kelly but the striker stayed composed and converted the rebound with his left.
There was not that same clinical calmness in the home ranks, though, as Blair Spittal’s effort flew wide.
Kevin van Veen was another culprit. A positive drive in from the left, bursting through challenges, ended with a rising shot over the bar.
Then the posts intervened, halting Spittal’s glancing header before McGinn, whose brother John was watching from the stand, saw his follow-up, trundle along the line and bounce back off the other upright.
Those are the moments on which games turn and, heading up the other end, Hearts extended their lead.
Shankland was the provider, holding the ball up and then laying it back to Forrest so he could neatly tuck a low curling strike inside the post.
Van Veen was denied by a sensational Gordon save and although Louis Moult found the net with the rebound, he was offside. Then Matt Penney was foiled by another Gordon save and, moments later, the bar, as Hearts remained steadfast.
As if the clean sheet was not enough of an affront to their hosts, the team who have set the standards that all others outwith the Old Firm need to match, grabbed another goal in the final minute as they got the job done.
It was Forrest who claimed it, tapping in a Nathaniel Atkinson cross.
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