Connor Shields’ first goal in North Lanarkshire plus Rickie Lamie’s second-half header earned a second successive victory for Graham Alexander’s team. Following the dominant 5-2 win over Dundee United at Tynecastle two weeks ago, Hearts looked a shadow of themselves.
Defender Taylor Moore was red carded on 65 minutes for a second caution, and seconds later they fell 2-0 behind and out of the game. Motherwell earned their victory as much as their opponents deserved what they got in the end.
Hearts remain third in the cinch Premiership ahead of next week’s home match with St Mirren. Motherwell stay fifth but are now only three points behind their Edinburgh counterparts.
Motherwell were slightly depleted entering this fixture with forward Kevin van Veen suspended and winger Jordan Roberts unable to play against his parent club. They also missed the injured midfielder Mark O’Hara. Hearts had Michael Smith and Liam Boyce available again after injury, although a groin strain ruled out centre-back Craig Halkett.
Backed by around 3,295 travelling fans, the visitors took the field knowing victory would propel them above Celtic into second place in the league table. However, they found themselves facing a deficit with only a quarter of the game gone.
Motherwell neatly played their way through midfield before Tony Watt fed winger Kaiyne Woolery on the right. His cross found the onrushing Sean Goss at the back post but the German midfielder miskicked his attempted finish. The ball broke kindly for Shields to force it past Craig Gordon in the Hearts goal.
The Scotland keeper then fisted away Barry Maguire’s 20-yard attempt following a corner with the hosts looking to seize on their superiority at that stage.
Hearts tried to assert themselves by sending a number of loping forward balls into the final third for Josh Ginnelly to chase but their success rate was minimal. The English winger was again playing centre-forward with Boyce sitting among the substitutes.
A flowing counter-attack produced the Tynecastle side’s only first-half chance a minute before the interval. Barrie McKay sprinted out of his own half to slide a pass through for Ginnelly in behind the Motherwell rearguard.
He hesitated rather than shooting, giving Rickie Lamie time to execute a powerful tackle and eliminate the danger. Suggestions that Lamie fouled Ginnelly before playing the ball were ignored by referee Willie Collum.
Hearts complained about that and the hosts’ time-wasting antics but, in truth, their own first-half display had been disappointing. Motherwell’s aggression levels gave them an edge.
Boyce entered the fray just before the hour with the hosts still in control. Moments later, Moore received a second yellow card for impeding Shields as the striker sprinted towards goal. He had been booked on 48 minutes for fouling Nathan McGinley.
From the resultant free-kick, the home advantage doubled. Goss angled a left-footed delivery to the back post where Lamie placed a controlled header downwards and past Gordon into the net.
Gordon prevented a certain third with a phenomenal double save in the latter stages. He stopped Woolery’s header with his legs and, when Shields volleyed the rebound, the 38-year-old pulled off a stunning parry at point-blank range.
Boyce hit the legs of Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly with his only scoring chance of the afternoon. It had been one of those days for those of a maroon persuasion and they were probably glad to hear the final whistle sound.
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.