Robbie Neilson "not really bothered" about defeat as key Hearts men are looked after ahead of cup final
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Michael Smith and Cammy Devlin both played for the last 15 minutes and Andy Halliday got more than an hour in front of the 1,014 travelling Hearts fans in attendance at Fir Park.
Neilson was also pleased to give Ben Woodburn and back-up goalkeeper Ross Stewart valuable game time before the last two games of the season against Rangers in the league at Tynecastle and the same opponents in the cup final at Hampden a week on Saturday.
He also played down injury fears over Toby Sibbick ahead of the cup final, even though the defender was clearly in pain when stretchered off in the 74th minute with what looked like an ankle injury.
Joe Efford put Motherwell in front after two minutes before Josh Ginelly quickly equalised in a first half dominated by Hearts. But Ricki Lamie fired home Motherwell’s winner from a corner Hearts failed to deal with early in a disjointed second half.
Neilson said: “We probably had enough chances to win it in the first half, but it got scrappy after that and we got done by a set piece, which is always a danger here.
“But I’m not really bothered, to be honest. Obviously we wanted to come here and win, but it was far more important that we got Cammy Devlin back, we got Michael Smith back, we got game time for the likes of Ben Woodburn and Ross Stewart.
“We wanted Andy Halliday to get 55-60 minutes then come off, which was how it worked out. And even though Toby Sibbick was carried off in the second half, the doc doesn’t think it’s too bad and he should be ok for the cup final.
“It looked at the time as if he was in a lot of pain and we were a bit concerned, but it seems to be just a bit of nerve damage that he’ll hopefully get over quickly.
“Plus, we got to rest the likes of Craig Gordon and Barrie McKay – we’ve got big games coming up and and this one was always going to be physical, so sometimes you just have to make a decision.”