Motherwell’s aggressive, energetic approach denied their guests any rhythm whatsoever and earned the hosts a deserved 2-0 victory. If Hearts were naive in some respects, they paid the price.
Connor Shields’ first Motherwell goal opened the scoring in the first half, Taylor Moore was then dismissed for a second caution before Rickie Lamie headed the second goal.
“They obviously had a gameplan and played it well,” admitted the Hearts winger Barrie McKay. “We couldn't get into the game, maybe we were a bit naive in the way we tried to play. We need to do the ugly side of the game as well.
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"Every team is going to try to do the same against us. If they let us play our game, we can hurt any team in this league. Unfortunately we didn't do that on Saturday. We still created some chances which, on another day, we put away. That's without playing well. We can definitely learn.”
McKay detailed why Hearts couldn’t impact the game better. “We need to turn them a bit more and earn the right to play,” he said. “Even when we are trying to turn them, be big with it.
“If you're short they have four massive guys at the back. More often than not they are going to win it and then it's coming right back down your throat. If you put the ball in behind them, they will head it down and maybe one of ours picks it up.
“They slowed the game down, winning lots of free-kicks. That's what I mean in terms of naivety – giving the ref a decision to make. If you give them a wee bit of space then they can't go down.
“At times we are probably a bit too honest. We get tackled and try to stay on our feet. Everybody has different styles of play. If that's the way they play then we need to find a way to beat it.”
Hearts remain third in the Premiership and can still be proud of their campaign so far. They welcome sixth-placed St Mirren to Tynecastle this weekend. “We lost at Aberdeen and had a good reaction against Dundee United. I think it's important we get that again next week,” said McKay.
“The boys are hurting. You don't want to lose any game. It's only our second defeat so it's not something we've been known for. It's about the bounceback, picking up different ways to win and putting it right.
“You see the way Motherwell celebrated after the game. They know they were up against a really good team. That's one of the reasons I came here. It's a top side and we are sitting third in the league. We aren't there by chance.”
Motherwell (4-3-3): Kelly; Mugabi, Solholm, Lamie, McGinley; Slattery, Maguire, Goss (Grimshaw 90); Woolery (O’Donnell 80), Shields (Amaluzor 87), Watt.
Hearts (3-4-3): Gordon; Moore, Souttar, Kingsley; M Smith, Devlin, Baningime (McEneff 71), Cochrane; McKay, Ginnelly (Gnanduillet 66), Woodburn (Boyce 59).
Referee: Willie Collum.