A Lawrence Shankland brace saw Hearts pick up three precious points ahead of the international break, thanks to a 2-1 victory at Fir Park on Saturday afternoon.
Steven Naismith made three changes from the Viaplay Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers as Alan Forrest, Liam Boyce and Alex Lowry came into the starting XI with Toby Sibbick, Kenneth Vargas and Jorge Grant dropping out.
Lowry has impressed during his time at Hearts, and he started brightly in this game. Receiving the ball almost 25-yards from goal his curling effort went just wide of Liam Kelly’s inside the opening few minutes.
Up the other end, Theo Bair rose highest from a corner, but he couldn’t divert his back post header on target.
A huge chance came and went for the Jambos on 16 minutes. Lawrence Shankland charged down a Motherwell clearance and when the ball rebounded to Alex Lowry, he unselfishly squared the ball for the Liam Boyce, who composed himself, but placed his effort just wide of the post.
Just four minutes later, another chance came along for the Jambos. Alan Forrest found space down the right wing and his cut back was perfect for Shankland, but Motherwell defenders threw bodies in the way to block the number nine’s shots and then Lowry’s follow up.
Hearts kept pushing and they got their reward on 27 minutes. Lowry’s corner from the left was met by Frankie Kent and Shankland was waiting to redirect the defender’s header past Liam Kelly and into the back of the net.
VAR continues to be a topic of discussion in Scottish football and Hearts thought they had a good shout for a penalty on the half hour mark as Liam Boyce went down under the challenge from Dan Casey.
The original decision from referee David Munro was no penalty and despite a second look at the pitchside monitor, no penalty was awarded as Hearts’ lead remained a slender one at the break.
Half-time: Motherwell 0-1 Hearts
Into the second half and it was the Jambos who continued to dominate proceedings.
A clever corner routine saw Lowry pick out Stephen Kingsley, but his low effort was deflected wide five minutes after the break.
The Jam Tarts had been a threat from set plays all game and Kent again got his head to one on the hour mark, his knock back for Shankland looked destined for the bottom corner, but again, it was deflected behind off a ‘Well jersey.
After another penalty shout was waved away, Hearts deservedly doubled their lead with the skipper notching his second of the afternoon.
Beni Baningime’s through ball was expertly dummied by Lowry and after Shankland took the ball round Kelly, he kept a cool head to double the Jambos’ lead on 71 minutes.
The home side had offered very little all afternoon, but they were given a lifeline 12 minutes from time. Oli Shaw’s volley struck Alex Cochrane’s hand and Munro pointed to the spot.
Blair Spittal stepped up to halve the deficit, but that was as good as it got for the Steelmen as Hearts saw the remainder of the game out to pick up a deserved three points.
Motherwell: Kelly, O’Donnell (Gent, 78), Spittral, Slattery (Mugabi, 90), Paton, Bair (Spencer, 46), Casey, Blaney, Biereth (Shaw, 72), Butcher, Wilkinson (Obika, 72)
Subs: Oxborough, Gent, Mugabi, Obika, Zdavkovski, Shaw, Spencer, Wells, Ross
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley, Baningime, Nieuwenhof, Shankland, Boyce (Vargas, 83), Rowles, Forrest (Sibbick, 56), Cochrane, Lowry (Grant, 75)
Subs: McGovern, Haring, Grant, Oda, Devlin, Halliday, Sibbick, Tagawa, Vargas