MOTHERWELL came from behind to inflict a damaging defeat on Hearts at Fir Park. Ryan Stevenson opened the scoring for the visitors against the run of play in the second half, however relentless pressure from the hosts paid off with goals from substitute Craig Moore and centre-back Shaun Hutchinson.
The defeat, coupled with wins for St Mirren and Kilmarnock, leaves Hearts facing a 13-point deficit at the foot of the Scottish Premiership. They exited Lanarkshire disappointed at taking nothing from a game in which they were ahead with just over 20 minutes remaining. Their fight against relegation now moves on to Rugby Park next weekend in a potentially crucial fixture with Kilmarnock.
With Kevin McHattie ill, Brad McKay was reinstated to a visiting defence which was barely troubled during the opening 45 minutes. McKay’s first real involvement was when Ian Vigurs’ shot careered off him as the half-hour approached, resulting in vain appeals for a penalty from Motherwell fans.
There was another appeal five minutes later when Steven Hammell’s cross connected with Danny Wilson’s arm just inside the area. Again, referee Brian Colvin ignored the claims. Jamie MacDonald then held the game’s first shot on target from Vigurs, and denied his former team-mate John Sutton soon after.
Hearts fashioned their first openings in the final minute of the first half. Successive shots from Jamie Walker and David Smith were both repelled by the Motherwell goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen, deputising for the injured Lee Hollis.
The second period began with the hosts in the ascendancy. A one-handed save from MacDonald prevented Sutton breaking the deadlock from Vigurs’ corner. From the next corner seconds later, Callum Tapping cleared Hutchinson’s header off his own goal line.
Hearts emerged from their shell with efforts at goal from Stevenson and Walker. Then came a classic breakaway to hand the Edinburgh club the advantage. Substitute Scott Robinson, on for the injured Callum Paterson, scampered forward following a Motherwell attack and fed Stevenson on the left. Stevenson pressed forward before lashing a powerful drive low into Nielsen’s net.
The lead lasted seven minutes. Substitute Moore trotted on to the pitch to replace Zaine Francis-Angol and within seconds dispatched a stunning 25-yard strike into the top left corner. No-one could deny that Motherwell deserved to equalise on the balance of play.
That spur was all the home team needed. On 83 minutes, they scored the game’s decisive goal when Hutchinson powered home a header from a corner. The centre-back had threatened to do so all afternoon, and his intervention secured victory.
Motherwell (4-2-3-1): Nielsen; Ramsden, Hutchinson, McManus, Hammell; Carswell (Lawson 68), Lasley; Vigurs, Anier (McHugh 75), Francis-Angol (Moore 68); Sutton. Subs: Stewart, Cummins, Kerr, Murray.
Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McGhee; Paterson (Robinson 55), Tapping (Holt 77), Hamill, Smith (Nicholson 82); Stevenson, Walker. Subs: Ridgers, Carrick, A King, Oliver.
Referee: Brian Colvin.