Hearts 1-0 Motherwell: Kyle Lafferty wins it for Jambos
Kyle Lafferty's ninth goal of the season gave Hearts their first win in seven matches as they edged out Motherwell 1-0 at Tynecastle in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The Northern Ireland striker netted on 39 minutes to push sixth-placed Jambos within two points of the Steelmen in a match lacking in any real quality and rhythm.
However, the victory will be so welcome for manager Craig Levein and his players, who recorded their first triumph in front of the new main stand at Tynecastle Park.
Hearts made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Hamilton Accies last Saturday. Connor Randall came in for the suspended Jamie Brandon at full-back, while Lafferty, Lewis Moore and Don Cowie came in for Cole Stockton, Esmael Goncalves and David Milinkovic.
Motherwell also made four alterations after their 5-1 defeat by Celtic. Goalkeeper Trevor Carson failed to recover from a shoulder injury and was replaced by Russell Griffiths, striker Louis Moult (hamstring) dropped out for Alex Fisher, while Peter Hartley and Craig Tanner made way for Carl McHugh and Elliot Frear.
The visitors badly missed top-scorer Moult and were toothless in attack, but Hearts suffered their own injury blow on 22 minutes when playmaker Jamie Walker had to be substituted. The 24-year-old was a doubt before the game with a tight hamstring and was replaced by Milinkovic to stop the problem becoming even worse.
The first-half was scrappy, with Motherwell's Frear and Hearts' Moore both missing presentable opportunities before the hosts took the lead on 39 minutes.
The goal was all down to Lafferty's determination. The 30-year-old has not been himself in recent weeks due to a virus, but he made the telling impact. Cowie's through-ball into the Motherwell box was slightly overhit, but Lafferty managed to muscle Cedric Kipre off the ball, side-step McHugh's challenge and fire the ball beyond Griffiths from close range.
Hearts lost influencial midfielder Arnaud Djoum to injury on 64 minutes and sat too deep for the remainder of the match. However, the visitors seldom looked like scoring, their best opportunity coming on 71 minutes when Kipre smacked the ball a few inches over Jon McLaughlin's crossbar after a slack pass from Moore.
Tynecastle erupted at full-time - a mixture of joy and relief - as the hosts picked up three precious points ahead of visits from Dundee and champions Celtic next week.
Hearts: McLaughlin; Randall, Souttar, Berra, M Smith; Buaben, Djoum (Callachan 64); Cowie, Walker (Milinkovic 22, Stockton 88), Moore; Lafferty. Unused subs: Hamilton, Grzelak, Cochrane, Goncalves.
Motherwell: Griffiths; Kipre, McHugh, Dunne; Tait, Cadden (Bigirimana 36), Campbell, Rose (Petravicius 62), Frear; Fisher (Tanner 46), Bowman. Unused subs: Hammell, Grimshaw, MacLean, Livingstone.
Referee: A Dallas.