Hearts maintained their unbeaten run this afternoon despite suffering the agony of conceding a 95th minute equaliser against Motherwell.
David Milinkovic looked to have set the Jambos on their way to victory with a second-half strike after the men in maroon had two big penalty shouts turned down, however that would come back to haunt them as Curtis Main bundled home a last-gasp leveler.
Craig Levein made four changes to the side that swept away Hamilton Accies in midweek. Aaron Hughes, Michael Smith, Arnaud Djoum and Anthony McDonald were all handed starting places, with Don Cowie and Connor Randall moving the bench while Harry Cochrane and Lewis Moore were rested. New signing Danny Amankwaa was also named among the substitutes.
Blustery conditions made it difficult for both teams to get the ball down and play, but Hearts managed to carve out the game’s first chance after ten minutes. Andy Irving’s low cross into the box was diverted towards his own goal by Charles Dunne, but with Trevor Carson beaten the ball came back off the post.
A wonderful passage of play 12 minutes later saw Hearts slice open the Motherwell defence. Deme Mitchell cut in from the left before finding Ross Callachan, and he slipped through McDonald, who danced away from a sliding challenge to get to the six-yard box, but the 16-year-old lifted his effort clean over the bar.
Moments later the Jambos were denied a penalty. McDonald’s looping cross was headed towards goal by Callachan and the ball appeared to hit the arm of Kipre, but referee Willie Collum waved play on.
Hearts were in their stride by this point, with a long-range Steven Nasimith thunderbolt spilled by Carson, only for the ‘Well ‘keeper to gather Callachan’s follow up.
Motherwell did have the ball in the back of the net just before the half hour mark, but although Tom Aldred’s shot beat Jon McLaughlin from inside the box, two visiting players were flagged for offside.
The men in maroon had another penalty claim turned down when Callachan tore into the box only for Aldred to come in from behind and appear to clip his heels, but again no decision was made in Hearts’ favour.
The visitors went close with five minutes of the first-half remaining. Nadir Ciftci swung in a cross from the left and found Curtis Main, but he couldn’t steer his header on target.
The post denied Hearts an opener before the half was out. A magnificent flick from John Souttar at the edge of the box steered the ball into the path of Mitchell, who burst forward and pulled the trigger and although the ball beat Carson, it came crashing back off the right-hand post.
McDonald had an effort beaten away by Carson at his near post ten minutes into the second-half, as Hearts pushed for that elusive opener.
It nearly came two minutes later when Naismith found Mitchell on the left, and he cut inside before blasting inches over the bar from 20-yards.
Motherwell passed up a glorious chance to take the lead in the 74th minute. Substitute Craig Tanner slipped through Curtis Main, and despite slotting past the onrushing McLaughlin from just inside the box, the ball rolled wide of the target.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 80th minute. Djoum drew a foul out on the right touchline, midway through the ‘Well half and Irving’s set piece into the box was cleared straight into the path of substitute Milinkovic, who drilled a low half-volley past Carson and into the back of the net.
Substitute Randall was next to get in on the action after Mitchell waltzed down the left flank before cutting inside for debutant Amankwaa, who found the on-loan Liverpool man 25-yards out but he dragged his ambitious effort wide of Carson’s right-hand post.
Mitchell was in the thick of it, terrorising the Motherwell defence. Milinkovic sent him racing down the left with a minute to go, and the tricky full-back hit a left foot effort from the edge of the box that narrowly flew over the crossbar.
There was an injury time chance for the Steelmen when substitute Deimantas Petravicius got on the end of a free-kick but he flashed a header wide of the target from close range.
With literally seconds left on the clock, disaster struck. A free-kick deep into the Hearts wasn’t cleared, and after the ball ping-ponged around, Main got the final touch to take the ball just over the line, despite the best efforts of Naismith.
A disappointing end to the game but the boys should be very proud of going 13 hours and 50 minutes without conceding a goal, and for maintaining an impressive unbeaten record that now stretches to 12 games.
Hearts: McLaughlin, M.Smith, Souttar, Hughes, Berra, Djoum, Naismith, Callachan (Milinkovic, 63'), Mitchell, Irving (Randall, 83'), McDonald (Amankwaa, 68'). Subs: Hamilton, Cowie, Zanatta, Brandon.
Motherwell: Carson, Tait (Petravicius, 83'), Cadden, McHugh, Main, Rose, Dunne, Aldred, Kipre, Campbell (Bigirimana, 76'), Ciftci (Tanner, 54'). Subs: Griffiths, Grimshaw, Hartley, Turnbull.
Referee: Willie Collum