“We said in the dressing-room why did we take 45 minutes to produce a half of football?” Sutton said. “Because we were 2-0 down? Would we have been like that had we not been 2-0 down – showing the same drive? We’ve got to play like that from the start.”
Hearts have a chance to play like that from the start tomorrow, when they meet St Johnstone at Tynecastle. That game is also an opportunity to end a run of five straight defeats and to dampen any hopes bottom club Dundee may have of mounting an improbable recovery.
“First of all we’ve got to make sure we don’t get relegated, because you never know what Dundee are going to do,” Sutton warned. “We haven’t talked about it – we were always looking up the league – but the fact is that we’re second bottom, and if you’re Dundee, we’re the team to catch.
“There’s no doubt we’ve still got a lot of quality in the squad. We’ve got international players and players of unbelievable ability. But unless we play well as a team and start putting results together and pick up more points, we’re not going to be safe.
“The margins have been quite fine this year, but we haven’t been good enough to challenge the likes of Motherwell. It seems not so long ago that we went up to Ross County and they got a last-minute equaliser against us. Since then, they’ve gone on a winning run and now they’re looking at second and third in the league and we haven’t won since.”
In contrast to Hearts, Motherwell have all but confirmed their top-six place and, on current form, must be favourites to hold on to second place. They ended a run of three defeats by beating Celtic in midweek and can now look forward to another European campaign.
“There’s no point beating Celtic and not backing it up,” midfielder Keith Lasley said. “Thankfully for us we managed to do that. It’s the business end of the year and every result is so big now. We can see the split coming fast and hopefully we can be in that top six.
“Once it is mathematically certain I think you reassess your targets and start pushing on. But we just want to get into that top six.”