Why 'naive' Hearts need to learn to win ugly after ruthless Motherwell lesson

Burned by a Hearts team that clicked when they met at Tynecastle last month, Motherwell refused to let Robbie Neilson’s men get into their stride on Saturday.

Barrie McKay in action for Hearts during a cinch Premiership match between Motherwell and Heart of Midlothian at Fir Park, on November 20, 2021, in Motherwell, Scotland.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Barrie McKay in action for Hearts during a cinch Premiership match between Motherwell and Heart of Midlothian at Fir Park, on November 20, 2021, in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

With the capital side looking to make the most of Celtic’s cup distraction and move back into second place in the Premiership, they struggled to carve out the kind of opportunities that have been flowing freely at home at times this term.

Scintillating displays delivered wins against the likes of Celtic and more recently against Dundee United but they now have to also find a way to win ugly, according to Barrie McKay, who tried his best to ignite something at Fir Park but did not get the rewards he hoped for as Ben Woodburn and then Josh Ginnelly were unable to capitalise on the service.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They obviously had a gameplan and played it well. We couldn't get into the game, maybe we were a bit naive in the way we tried to play. We need to do the ugly side of the game as well.

Heart's Armand Gnanduillet pushes Motherwell's Solholm Johansen. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

“Every team is going to try to do the same against us. They know that if they let us play our game, we can hurt any team in this league. Unfortunately, we didn't do that on Saturday.

"We still created some chances which, on another day, we would put away. You saw last time [against Dundee United] Ben sticks two away. On another day him and Gino both finish. Even the one Boycie went through, you would probably put your house on him finishing it.

Motherwell were more ruthless, with Connor Shields opening the scoring in the 23rd minute and he would have added a second had it not been the brilliance of Scotland’s No 1 Craig Gordon and his double save which included a point blank stop from Shields’ volley.

The decisive goal came from Ricki Lamie but, in truth the home side took an early grip of the game and never relinquished it as Hearts struggled with their approach and failed to make the ball stick.

"We need to earn the right to play. Even when we are trying to turn them, be big with it. If you're short they have four massive guys at the back. More often than not they are going to win it and then it's coming right back down your throat.

"If you put the ball in behind them, they will head it down and maybe one of ours picks it up. It just didn't seem to click for anyone.”

Their job had become even more difficult when Taylor Moore was sent off for a second yellow card when he tried to halt another ‘Well advance and when Lamie then headed the second past Gordon, thoughts were already turning to how the Gorgie players could redeem themselves next week, when St Mirren head to Tynecastle.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We lost at Aberdeen and had a good reaction against Dundee United,” said McKay. “I think it's important we get that again next week.

"The boys are hurting. You don't want to lose any game. It's only our second defeat so it's not something we've been known for. It's about the bounceback, picking up different ways to win and putting it right next week.”

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today