THERE’S no doubt that a point was just about right, in terms of how Motherwell and Hearts played.
However, had referee Crawford Allen taken a dimmer view of home goalkeeper Darren Randolph’s crude first-half challenge on Hearts striker Callum Paterson, the outcome could have been very different.
The game itself was a dour affair and Randolph’s clash with the Tynecastle youngster was pretty much the only talking point at the end of the 90 minutes.
Paterson had been racing on in goal in pursuit of a ball from midfield when Randolph came off his line and jumped high in the air to collect. In doing so, he appeared to put his knee out to the right, catching Paterson full in the face.
It looked certain that a penalty kick and red card would follow but Crawford Allan instead waved away the claims from a gaggle of furious Hearts players.
Jamie MacDonald was at the other end of the pitch when the pair collided and didn’t have the best view, but conceded that keepers commonly use their knees to protect themselves.
The Hearts goalkeeper said: “From where I was, the goalkeeper has come out with his leg up. It’s hard because – as a keeper – you are told to protect yourself.
“From a young age you are told to get your knee up and protect yourself. I will need to watch it back but I think he has maybe extended his a little bit too much and caught Callum.”
That incident aside, MacDonald admitted that there had been nothing between the two sides and he was just pleased to have kept a clean sheet. He continued: “It’s always a tight game between us and Motherwell. In the first half, I think we edged it and in the second half I think they probably did.
“If anything, I think a mistake would have been the only way a goal would have come. It’s a clean sheet so I am happy – unfortunately we didn’t get the win.”
Hearts fans travelled in relatively small numbers, clearly choosing to spend their hard-earned cash on backing their side both vocally and financially in their remaining home games following the club’s well- publicised financial troubles.
There were just over 500 of them in the crowd at Fir Park but MacDonald can understand exactly where they are coming from, with huge numbers having bought shares in the club and contributed where possible to fund-raising efforts.
He added: “It’s hard for the Hearts fans right now to purchase away tickets when they are putting so much into the club.
“They’re coming to home games, they’re getting involved in the fund-raising.
“The fans are maybe choosing to think about themselves for a change and quite rightly so because they have done so much for us in the last few weeks.
“I can’t praise them enough.”
The Jambos who did travel saw McGlynn’s men come close twice in the opening stages, the first opportunity when Ryan Stevenson’s free-kick was pushed wide by Randolph and then again when Dylan McGowan was just crowded out in the penalty box.
But, in truth, chances were few and far between in this match until it entered the latter stages.
Hearts again went with just one up front and started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Darren Barr and Dylan McGowan constantly dropping deep.
Paterson was in the wars throughout, the penalty incident the first of many knocks the youngster took and Hearts manager McGlynn revealed that the player was suffering from a sore head after the match.
The home side were denied the opener just before the half hour by a cracking save from MacDonald, Chris Humphrey’s ball in from the right reaching the head of Higdon, only for the keeper to get down well to his right to punch the ball away.
Danny Grainger had been struggling with a knock he suffered late in the first half and he lasted only five minutes after the break – although that was long enough to earn himself a booking for pulling back Humphrey.
He was replaced by Mehdi Taouil and that switch meant Ryan McGowan moving to left-back and Barr to the right side of defence.
Motherwell had another chance in 68 minutes when Humphrey’s pace got the better of Ryan McGowan and the winger’s chipped effort was close, bouncing back off the top of MacDonald’ crossbar and away from danger.
The Lanarkshire side had enjoyed a spell of superior possession and again MacDonald had to come to the rescue to push Humphrey’s effort away.
In stoppage time, Ryan McGowan could have snatched the points for Hearts when he got on the end of an Arvydas Novikovas corner, only for the big Aussie’s downward header to go just wide of Randolph’s left-hand post.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall hadn’t watched the penalty incident back on television when he spoke to the media but insisted that, if fortune had favoured his keeper, it would be the first piece of good luck they’ve had all season.
He said: “In real time, I thought that Daz had come out to collect the ball and they had collided. Paterson is a brave boy, going in where it hurts.
“I’ve been told since that it could have been a penalty kick and a sending-off then we have had a bit of luck there – but it would probably the first bit this season.
“We could have had a penalty at Tynecastle earlier this season when Webster forearm-smashed Higdon.”
McCall admitted that the game wasn’t the best in terms of entertainment but that a point had been about the right outcome against a side he considers one of the best defensively in the SPL right now.
He added: “I think that Hearts are one of the strongest defensive units the way they set up, with the two boys in the back four.
“We were sloppy in the first half then in the second half we were the better side against a team who are really hard to break down. A point was about right.”