Miserable night at Motherwell
Hearts' winless run stretched to five matches with a horrible single goal defeat at Fir Park tonight. Chris Porter headed home the only goal of the game following the one moment of quality in the entire match, as Jim O'Brien fed Stephen Hughes for a tempting cross to the far post. That was on 11 minutes; thereafter the game was virtually incident free.
Csaba Laszlo made three changes from the match against Hibernian on Saturday. In came Marius Zaliukas, Lee Wallace and David Obua; replacing Jason Thomson, Christos Karipidis, and Larry Kingston. Meanwhile, Gary Glen found a place on the bench following his lively contribution at the weekend.
The match began in unpromising fashion with both sides quickly resorting to the long ball back and forward over half-way, an early test for the resolve of each set of central defenders. As soon as any player tried to put a foot on the ball, he invariably found himself dumped unceremoniously to the ground, which made for an error-strewn and much-interrupted opening to the game.
Then, unexpectedly, a brief period of football broke out. Neat play by Jim O'Brien near the corner flag on the Motherwell right saw him take both Wallace and Andy Driver out of the game with a clever back heel, the ball was worked forward into the box to the unmarked Stephen Hughes, and his deep cross was headed home simply at the far post by Porter.
That galvanised the home side and they almost doubled their advantage just three minutes later when David Clarkson controlled a loose ball at the edge of the area, before unleashing a left-foot effort that drifted over Janos Balogh's crossbar. With both Christophe Berra and Zaliukas continuing to look uncertain on a treacherous surface, Porter again nearly breached the visitors' back-line on 20 minutes. Sadly for him, he lost his footing at the crucial moment, and allowed the ball to spin harmlessly through to Balogh.
Hearts' response to all this saw a couple of willing runs from Driver, which petered out to nothing with a poor final ball. His delivery of a 32nd minute free-kick was slightly better, good enough to find Nade rising at the far post. Unfortunately the Frenchman failed to get over the ball and his resultant header sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
A modest first-half, then, but in truth it was a veritable feast of football compared to the truly awful second period we then had to endure. An early foray down the right saw Eggert Jonsson cut inside and line up a left-footer from 22 yards, but his low effort was gobbled up easily by Graeme Smith in the home side's goal. And that was just about that.
Calum Elliot, Gary Glen and Deividas Cesnauskis replaced Nade, Obua and Wallace between the 62nd and 73rd minutes; and Craigan and Klimpl were booked for fouls on Elliot and Zaliukas. None of it made any difference to the final outcome, the Steelmen holding on comfortably and continuing their impressive recent recovery from a poor start to the campaign.
Motherwell: G Smith; Reynolds, Craigan, Quinn, Hammell; Klimpl, Hughes, Lasley, O'Brien (Murphy 87); Clarkson, Porter (D Smith 86). Booked: Craigan, Klimpl. Subs not used: Krysiak, Malcolm, Sutton, McGarry, Saunders.
Hearts: Balogh; Neilson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace (Cesnauskis 73); Jonsson, Stewart, Palazuelos, Driver; Obua (Glen 68); Nade (Elliot 63). Subs not used: McGowan, Templeton, Rapnik, Kello.
Referee: David Somers
Join Lawrence Broadie, Mark Donaldson and Gary Mackay for LIVE audio coverage of tonight's game from Fir Park, on air from 7.30pm.