HEARTS granted their supporters some early Christmas cheer with an impressive and thoroughly professional win over Motherwell at Tynecastle.
First-half strikes from Ian Black and Stephen Elliott, both
of which were created by David Templeton, brought the Edinburgh club
their second successive victory and another clean sheet following last
week’s defeat of Dunfermline.
Motherwell’s excellent away form this season counted for little as
Hearts earned three well deserved points in this Christmas Eve fixture.
The hosts controlled the first 45 minutes and found themselves two goals
to the good through Black’s driven shot and Elliott’s tap-in. A
disciplined second-half display helped them see the game out and thus
lift some of the gloom enveloping Tynecastle of late.
Ryan Stevenson did not feature after walking out on Wednesday, but Andy
Driver returned as a substitute after declaring himself committed to
Hearts. Darren Barr also made a rare appearance in place of the injured
Both goalkeepers produced early saves as Michael Higdon and David
Templeton attempted to gain a quick advantage for their sides. Hearts
settled into a smooth passing rhythm and moved ahead on 17 minutes.
Keith Lasley’s short pass to Tom Hateley was intercepted by David
Templeton, who sprinted forward only to see his attempt at goal blocked.
Black collected the rebound, sidestepped Lasley and drove the ball into
the net from 20 yards with his weaker left foot.
Templeton was chief creator for Hearts’ second 11 minutes later. The
winger spun clear of Hateley and, after another piercing run, crossed to
the unmarked Elliott to convert from close range. Paulo Sergio danced
for joy in the technical area and there was little debating Hearts’
dominance at that juncture as their guests looked slightly overwhelmed.
Hateley in particular toiled to cope with the rampant Templeton.
Omar Daley’s cross rebounded off a post as half-time approached but
Hearts preserved their clean sheet. The two-goal lead gave them
something to protect in the second period, although it might have been
extended had Shaun Hutchinson not deflected Ryan McGowan’s effort to
safety after the restart.
Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello pushed away Hateley’s swerving corner
which threatened to arc in under his crossbar, then another error from
Hateley let Templeton in behind the Motherwell defence again. This time,
with support scarce, his shot from an acute angle was repelled by
goalkeeper Darren Randolph. That was to be Templeton’s last act of the
afternoon as he made way for Driver.
Motherwell then conducted a double substitution by introducing Bob
McHugh and Stuart Carswell in an effort to regain a foothold in
proceedings. The next replacement was enforced as Hamill left the field
on a stretcher after falling under no pressure clutching his left ankle.
Barr, recovered from hernia surgery, took his place.
Hateley’s 76th-minute free-kick flew over Kello’s crossbar but that, in
truth, was the sum total of Motherwell’s attempts to get back into this
encounter. The sound of the final whistle brought cheers of satisfaction
from the Tynecastle support, who were doubtless grateful for the early
Hearts: Kello; Hamill (Barr 72, Webster, Zaliukas, McGowan;
Mrowiec, Black (Skacel 86); Taouil, Robinson, Templeton (Driver 62);
Elliott. Subs: MacDonald, Obua, Novikovas, Stewart.
Motherwell: Randolph; Hateley, Hutchinson, Craigan, Hammell;
Hughes (Carswell 66), Lasley; Daley, Law, Murphy (McHugh 66); Higdon.
Subs: Bradley, Humphrey, Forbes, Page, Clancy.
Referee: Crawford Allan