Hearts debrief: Classy Cochrane, Halliday's heroic double and one to forget for ref
A look back at an engorssing and dramatic cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Motherwell at Tynecastle, Robbie Neilson’s ten men coming out on top to 3-2 thanks to Lawrence Shankland’s late penalty.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Alex Cochrane was immense. Never rested, the young Englishman has almost certainly had more minutes on the pitch than any other Hearts player this season but never seems to tire. It was his lung-busting run and cross which earned Hearts the decisive penalty to win the match and topped off perhaps his best performance in a Hearts jersey, even though he was not in his favoured position for most of it.
Cochrane has filled at at left centre-back a few times this season, of course. He was pilloried by the Italian press after his performance in that role away to Fiorentina, but he doesn’t let anything faze him. This performance underlined how quickly he learns and improves.
He defended his box with aggression, making block after clearance after interception. He was composed on the ball, his distribution superb and when moved to left-back he got even better.
Andy Halliday scored two stunning goals from left-back, to make it four in four games. And yet, there was so much drama, so much controversy, so many talking points and big moments that Halliday’s fantastic double got buried in the story of the match.
He could quite easily have had a hat-trick. He was beautifully put through on the keeper by a slide-rule Robert Snodgrass pass, only to have his shot tipped over, and had a good chance with a header from a corner before the stunning one that he did manage to loop into the net. That was a carbon copy of his header against Ross County the previous week.
His second goal, a low, angled drive into the side netting was struck sweetly and first time as the ball broke to him just inside the box. Equally impressive and worthy of special praise.
Kevin Clancy had a difficult afternoon and got it in the neck from both managers and sets of fans. Robbie Neilson was unhappy with the red card and Motherwell’s penalty award. Steven Hamill felt Craig Gordon should have been sent off.
Clancy’s decision to send off Jorge Grant for, presumably, using excessive force looked, on first viewing, to be harsh but one that was probably up for debate. That being the case, VAR was correct not to change his on-field decision. Clancy seemed to let a lot of things go after that, which build up frustration on both sides.
Hearts also feel the penalty decision didn’t go their way, with Craig Gordon adamant he got a hand on the ball when coming out to meet Louis Moult. But Clancy was clear and decisive, awarding the penalty straight away and he was backed up by VAR. That being the case, it is difficult to understand why Gordon didn’t receive a second yellow card. Motherwell feel that went against them.
Clancy also missed a late tackle on Alex Cochrane by Stuart McKinstry just seconds after the Motherwell man had been booked. But it wasn’t the only thing he missed. Overall, this was a game Clancy will want to forget.
Hearts will travel to Ibrox on Wednesday fatigued but full of confidence to face a Rangers team under huge pressure. Robbie Neilson’s team will feel they can crank up that pressure, use the restless home crowd to their advantage to inflict more damage on the wounded animal and return to Edinburgh with a point or more. The Livingston travel to Tynecastle on Saturday in a match Hearts will be looking to win to go into the World Cup break on a high.