Motherwell 2-0 Hearts match story: Jekyll & Hyde Jambos no match for impressive Steelmen
In a game where they were left to feed off scraps and struggled to find any rhythm, thanks in part to referee Willie Collum’s refusal to let play flow, but also to Motherwell’s work rate and dogged determination to press their guests and deny them the kind of time and space they have used to devastating effect already this term.
It wasn’t pretty but it was effective as Hearts failed to get a foothold in a game that Graham Alexander’s men controlled.
Unable to get their slick link-up play going, the Gorgie side, who knew that victory would have taken them back into second place, failed to click and were left pinging long balls forward, hitting on the counter, and struggling to carve out many clear-cut chances.
There were two or three, when Barrie McKay, the most creative of the visitors, played in Ben Woodburn, on a couple of occasions, and also Josh Ginnelly but the Liverpool loanee’s poor first touch as he burst through on goal allowed Motherwell keeper Liam Kelly to get in ahead of him and clear, and he couldn’t get a great connection the second time around, while there were questions about the validity of the Ricki Lambie challenge that ultimately denied Ginnelly.
They were questions Neilson obviously shared but did not want to voice post-match, having already been spoken to by the officials during the match and wary of facing another SFA charge.
Motherwell had made a number of changes to the side that defeated Aberdeen in their last outing before the international break. Having put five past Dundee United in their last match Hearts made just one and that was enforced, with Michael Smith coming in for the injured Craig Halkett. Top scorer Liam Boyce started on the bench.
The early opportunities that came Hearts’ way counted for nothing and they could have been a few goals behind by the interval, Instead, only Connor Shields’ 23rd minute opener separated the sides.
Building momentum, Sean Goss and Tony Watt had tested the water before Beni Baningime was dispossessed in midfield and Well swept forward finally setting up Shields to send the ball beyond Gordon.
Reactive rather than proactive, if Hearts had a Plan B, they failed to implement it and were left scratching to find a way to get the ball upfield and, more importantly, to make it stick.
Next it was Barry Maguire who forced a save from the Scotland keeper, but those interventions were nothing compared to the double save the 39-year-old pulled off in the second half
In the 73 minute, he blocked Kaiyne Woolery’s downward header with his leg, then leapt up to get a hand to Shield’s follow-up volley.
While there remains an element of Jekyll and Hyde to some of Hearts’ play, the one guarantee is Gordon’s metronomic ability to produce the sensational.
But by that stage Hearts were already trailing 2-0 and down to 10 men. Taylor Moore had been sent off for a second bookable offence and from Goss’ resultant free-kick Lamie rose at the back to head into Gordon’s net and write off Hearts’ hopes.
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