OSMAN SOW’S raking 30-yard drive earned Hearts a point at Motherwell, although they dropped to third in the Ladbrokes Premiership due to Aberdeen’s win over Ross County. The Edinburgh club twice came from behind in horrendous conditions, with Juanma and Sow goals cancelling out those by Louis Moult and Marvin Johnson.
It was a fittingly spirited display from Hearts in their historic Foundation of Hearts kit. The shirt featured the names of all 8,000 fans whose cash has helped keep the club alive. The poor weather affected both teams and quality passing was at a premium, though, with Sow’s goal easily the pick of the four to level the scores at 2-2 on 69 minutes.
Fan ownership week saw Foundation of Hearts and The Well Society join forces for the day. Both supporter groups hope to gain control of their clubs in time and are seeking to increase their backing and profile.
Motherwell were ahead within two minutes of the match amid a fair degree of controversy. First, Blazej Augustyn’s short backpass forced goalkeeper Neil Alexander to slide in and clear under pressure from Moult. The hosts retrieved possession and fed Johnson for a cross which saw Moult challenge Alexander almost on the goal line. The pair collided, Alexander couldn’t hold the ball and it dropped for Moult to tap home as Hearts appealed vehemently for a foul. Referee Steven McLean ignored the claims but did book Alexander for dissent.
Juanma restored parity within a few minutes, however. Osman Sow outmuscled Kieran Kennedy and slipped a weighted through pass for the Spanish forward to cleverly chip over the advancing Motherwell goalkeeper, Connor Ripley, from 12 yards. It was a classy finish and an ideal response for the visitors. Sow should have put them ahead moments later when through on goal. He was denied by Ripley’s fine block.
The swirling overhead wind and rain ensured an end-to-end encounter with both teams intent on attacking. Motherwell’s Stephen Pearson looked certain to restore his team’s advantage following Johnson’s run and cutback, but Igor Rossi threw himself in front of the shot for a vital block.
The flow of play then moved to the other end and, from Danny Swanson’s free-kick, Ripley produced an instinctive parry to stop Callum Paterson’s powerful header. While both teams went forward mercilessly, their respective defending wasn’t quite as competent. Johnson - Motherwell’s best player - had another run into the Hearts penalty area and his low cross found Scott McDonald for a side-footed effort from close range, which Alexander did well to stop. The keeper then held Johnson’s shot comfortably.
Conditions deteriorated into the second half and that had an impact on the quality of play. Mistakes were always likely. Hearts found themselves playing into the driving wind but neat passing interchanges were impossible. In fact, it became a challenge to simply look up and identify a team-mate through the constant rain.
Jordan McGhee replaced Juwon Oshaniwa at left-back to a fair amount of cheering from the 1,776 travelling fans. However, Motherwell restored their advantage through the irresistible Johnson on 65 minutes. He charged forward on to a through ball and angled a drive across Alexander into the far corner of the net with his left foot.
If Motherwell expected to close the game out at that stage, they had to think again four minutes later when Sow unleashed a screamer. The giant Swede collected the ball more than 30 yards out and dispatched a searing drive over Ripley into the centre of the net. At 2-2, this game was there for the taking and Hearts went on the offensive hoping for a winner.
Riply blocked brilliantly to deny Sow and Sam Nicholson could only slice the rebound over the crossbar. That chance had three points written all over it, but the final whistle confirmed a share of the spoils at the end of a fairly intense 90 minutes.
Motherwell (4-4-1-1): Ripley; Law, Kennedy, McManus, Hammell; Grimshaw, Pearson, Lasley, Johnson; McDonald; Moult.
68: Ainsworth for Johnson
85: Robinson for McDonald
Unused subs: Samson, Laing, Clarkson, Thomas, Taylor.
Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, Oshaniwa; Nicholson, Pallardo, Djoum, Swanson; Juanma, Sow.
50: McGhee for Oshaniwa
68: Buaben for Swanson
Unused subs: Hamilton, Gomis, Reilly, Buchanan, Zanatta.
Referee: Steven McLean.