THIS was a thoroughly satisfying win for Hearts in many ways. Some players’ wages hadn’t arrived as promised, Motherwell had lost only one of their previous six visits to Tynecastle and the home team have struggled for consistency this season. So, beating the Lanarkshire club and recording a clean sheet brought contentment as Hearts climbed to joint seventh in the Scottish Premier League.
The winning strike from Danny Grainger was most pleasing of all and is already a contender for goal of the season. He ambled forward on 14 minutes after collecting Ryan Stevenson’s pass and lashed an unstoppable effort from 30 yards into the top corner. Darren Randolph, the Motherwell goalkeeper, was convincingly beaten by the power and pace behind the ball.
It was the highlight of a commanding first-half display from Hearts which underpinned their victory. Wages for those players still unpaid at Tynecastle are due to land in bank accounts today but there was no hint of discontent within John McGlynn’s squad at the latest salary delay.
Quite the opposite, in fact. During a difficult second half in which Motherwell increasingly heaped pressure on Jamie MacDonald’s goal, there was clear resilience and togetherness from Hearts. They held firm to close out the game and move halfway towards achieving their manager’s stated target of six points from consecutive home matches against Motherwell and Ross County.
“We’re very happy to win, that’s what it’s about at the end of the day,” said McGlynn. “We started on fire, causing problems and getting the ball into wider areas and getting crosses into the box. Danny’s strike was great, worthy of winning any match. It was an end-to-end game and Motherwell caused us problems in the second half.
“They are a good side, they are always going to cause you problems but three points and clean sheet gets us up to 12 points and up a couple of places in the league. There isn’t much difference in many SPL games. We’ve maybe played better and lost. There are very thin margins and, quite simply, the goal was the difference in this one. It’s the same in most games. Today we got that goal, it was a great strike and it gives you something to fight for and a cushion behind you. It always makes a huge difference if you get the first goal.
“Nerves were always going to kick in as the game went on. Of course you come under pressure but you have to withstand that. We hadn’t won at home in the SPL since the first game of the season so we will gain a lot of confidence from winning and keeping a clean sheet. We need to build on it now because we had been playing well and not getting results.
“It’s Ross County here next week and I know them well from my time in the First Division. They are a good, experienced side and they got a good victory on Saturday. We are now on 12 points and 15 wouldn’t be far away from the target we set.”
Motherwell left Tynecastle with emotions which were the opposite of their hosts’. They felt aggrieved at not taking at least a point having attacked relentlessly at times in the second half. Andy Webster was required to rescue Hearts by clearing Nicky Law’s header off his own goal line. Motherwell also believed a penalty should have been awarded in the first half when Webster bundled Michael Higdon over from behind to head clear.
“It was a stonewall penalty,” stressed Higdon. “There was another incident where Andy Webster gave me a clout round the ear and we got nothing again. Maybe people think I’m physical and can handle myself but I’ve got two big meatheads behind me to think about.”
Stuart McCall, the visiting manager, echoed his striker’s sentiments. “I have just watched it again and I think if it’s outside the box then a free-kick is given. I’m not one to whinge but having seen it again, and Higgy said straight away he came over the top of him, it does look as if a penalty would have been a fair decision. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.”
Grainger’s satisfaction was understandable given his contribution to the game. However, he was more elated by keeping a clean sheet than scoring such a brilliant winner. “It was nice to get a goal, I’m just happy it ended up in the top corner and not the top end of the stand. I’m more delighted with the clean sheet, to be honest. After training you mess around lashing balls at the goal. We do shooting from distance in training and it’s paid off today. I knew when I hit it that it was on target.”
The full-back is not concerned that most of Hearts’ recent goals have not been scored by strikers. “We are going to get games where we don’t play well,” he said. “Then there will be games where crosses get deflected and go in. We’re going to get the 30 yarders that go in, and then the games when the boys take all their chances.
“We’re all at Hearts for a reason, because we’re good at our jobs and if we keep creating chances we will score goals. I don’t think Callum Paterson or John Sutton are doing anything wrong. Just because you aren’t scoring every week doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your job. There is pressure on the whole team to chip in with goals, right through to the defence.”