Hearts 1-0 Motherwell: Peter Haring heads Jambos back onto winning track
Peter Haring's header ended Hearts' seven-game winless run after a scrappy encounter with Motherwell.
The Austrian nodded the game's only goal with the aid of a deflection in the first half to secure three welcome points for the Edinburgh club.
Not since October had Hearts experienced that winning feeling but they deserved this triumph on the balance of play. It must be said that the game lacked quality football for long spells, although that is unlikely to faze the hosts much.
Hearts reverted to a three-man defence with wing-backs and it proved useful in halting their disappointing run. Motherwell made several changes to their starting line-up despite a creditable 1-1 draw against Celtic in midweek. On-loan Hearts forward Conor Sammon was ineligible as per the terms of his loan agreement and sat in the stand.
He saw fellow striker Danny Johnson send a powerful shot inches wide of Zdenek Zlamal's goal within seconds of kick-off. Then came a flowing attacking move by Hearts as Michael Smith's raking 50-yard pass out to the left landed on the toe of Demetri Mitchell, who didn't even need to break his run. His low cross towards striker Steven MacLean was deflected out for a corner.
Johnson had a delightful lobbed finish ruled out for offside before the deadlock was broken on 14 minutes. Oliver Bozanic swung in a dangerous cross from the left and Haring climbed for a looping header which may appeared to take a deflection as it arced over the Motherwell goalkeeper Mark Gillespie. Regardless, Hearts had a crucial early advantage.
Quality football appeared only in small phases at Tynecastle with both teams battling and scrapping for everything. The home side used the ball better than Motherwell, who were repeatedly caught offside when they did try to get in behind the Hearts rearguard.
Marcus Godinho almost caught Gillespie unaware in the final minutes of the first period. The Canadian's deep cross from the right was destined for the far corner of the net until the backpedalling goalkeeper clawed it out from the jaws of his goal.
The absence of much technical play continued after the break. It was notable that Michael Smith was having an outstanding game in the centre of Hearts' back three – covering for colleagues and distributing the ball well. To his right, Clevid Dikamona soldiered on despite limping due to an injury.
Haring also suffered a knock and had to depart with a cut eye which swelled instantly. After some pitchside treatment, he returned to the fray.
Craig Levein's side probed in search of a second goal but their opponents from Lanarkshire stayed in the game. Motherwell also tried to force their way forward quickly with a series of long balls which weren't causing Hearts undue trouble as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
With such a slender deficit in the game, the last few minutes were predictably tense as nervous energy gripped Tynecastle. The final whistle brought much relief as Hearts celebrated victory for the first time since October 23 at Dundee.
Hearts (3-4-2-1): Zlamal; Dikamona, Smith, Berra; Godinho, Haring, Bozanic, Mitchell; Djoum, Clare (Lee 82); MacLean. Unused subs: Doyle, Wighton, Hughes, Garuccio, Cochrane, Morrison.
Motherwell: (3-4-1-2): Gillespie; Aldred, McHugh, Dunne; Grimshaw, Rose (Bowman 70), Rodriguez (Bigirimana 64), Tait (Scott 83); Turnbull; Main, Johnson. Unused subs: Ferguson, Campbell, Mbulu, Livingstone.
Referee: Willie Collum.