Hearts extended their lead at the top of the Premiership table last night but Motherwell insist that they did so courtesy of a goal that would never have stood had the referee been able to utilise VAR.
Fir Park manager Stephen Robinson said that he had watched the build up to Steven Naismith’s 29th minute goal several times and that while he had believed the challenge between Hearts striker Uche Ikpeazu and goalkeeper Trevor Carson to be a no quarter asked, no quarter given 50-50 tackle at the time, footage had convinced him that the Gorgie forward should have been punished and the goal chalked off.
“We all thought it was a 50/50, including Bobby [Madden, the referee]. I’ve got the benefit of watching it back four or five times and Trevor clearly gets the ball.
“I have to say, there was no intent whatsoever from big Uche, but his momentum takes him right through and we’ve potentially got a goalkeeper with a broken ankle or a broken leg.
“He clearly wins the ball before Uche makes contact with him and then it ricochets.
“First and foremost, we shouldn’t be passing the ball back, it was an individual error which we can prevent, so it’s not a blame game and if I was Bobby Madden I would probably have given the exact same decision because of the pace of the game, but until we get a wee bit of help for everybody then those decisions are going to be given.
“If that’s in the MLS and the ref looks back at it, then the goal wouldn’t have stood and potentially there’s a card involved.”
Hearts manager Craig Levein, who had resisted the urge to step back into the dug-out and watched the game from the stand as he continues to recuperate from his recent heart scare, saw the incident differently, suggesting the keeper, who left the pitch on a stretcher with a suspected fracture, was possibly at fault.
“It was a 50-50,” he stated. “If it was me I would be unhappy with my goalie because he came out worst in a 50-50. I thought it was a very fair challenge. It was just that Ikpeazu wanted to win it more.”
The same could be said of the side that has now gone five games unbeaten in the Premiership and sit five points clear of defending champions Celtic and league newcomers Livingston.
“I used to sit in the stand a lot with Dundee United and I always found it better for my half-time team talk because you don’t get involved in the emotions of what happens on the touchline. But I am itching to get back down there. I felt good today, maybe because we won! I hope I feel good every week for a while.
“I thought out support was brilliant today, you’d have thought we were the home team at times. It does help the players, particularly in a situation where they are bombarding us with balls into the box and time and time again Jimmy Dunne and John Souttar are repelling them. But I sat there thinking: ‘I don’t feel stressed about this’.
“I thought our base strength today was our defending. Our two young centre backs [John Souttar and Jimmy Dunne] were amazing and I thought we defended magnificently and Naimsith has got such an intelligent footballing brain. He recognised the situation quicker than anybody else [for the goal] and he had the calmness to take an extra touch.”
Having built a side that is now brimming with belief, the Tynecastle manager is poised to strengthen the squad even further.
Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean Clare was in Edinburgh last week and took in yesterday’s victory from the stand and Levein has admitted that they are very close to making the 21-year-old Englishman his 18th signing of the summer.
“He is nearly signed. It has been quite complicated. He’s still a Sheffield Wednesday player essentially because he’s still subject to training compensation and we are trying to get that all sorted out. But I believe the paperwork is nearly done, and he should be with us on Monday. I can’t tell you how excited I am.”