Hearts were edged out 2-1 by Motherwell was Fir Park this evening.
Josh Ginnelly cancelled out Joe Efford’s early opener, only for Ricki Lamie to pounce for the game’s winner ten minutes into the second half.
Robbie Neilson made four changes from the side that lost at Celtic Park last weekend. In came Ross Stewart, Andy Halliday, Gary Mackay-Steven and Ben Woodburn, with Craig Gordon, Stephen Kingsley and Ellis Simms moving to the bench while Barrie McKay missed out altogether.
With less than three minutes on the clock, the hosts took the lead. Connor Shields was played into the box and although his low shot was blocked by Stewart, Efford ran in unchallenged for the follow up to slam the ball home from close range.
By the ten minute mark the Jambos were back on level terms. Ginnelly collected a loose clearance and waltzed his way through the Motherwell backline before slotting underneath the onrushing Liam Kelly to restore parity.
It was nearly 2-1 to Hearts two minutes later. Halliday’s sublime flick from Toby Sibbick’s pass played Ginnelly into the box but his effort was deflected behind.
Kelly came to the rescue on 19 minutes after Liam Boyce latched on to Woodburn’s raking ball forward to get into the box before blasting an effort goalward but the Motherwell keeper did well to beat it away.
Ginnelly then had a strong penalty claim turned down when he skinned Lamie to get into the box before the Motherwell man blatantly pushed him over, but the referee waved play on.
Kelly was it again minutes later, this time pushing away Peter Haring’s 25-yard effort before Boyce collected the follow up to cross into the middle, but the Austrian could only head well over the bar.
Hearts were looking a threat with every attack by this point, and well worked corner on 25-minutes saw Boyce slip Mackay-Steven through for him to dart into the box and cut back for Woodburn, but his prod goalward was deflected behind.
The hosts passed up a glorious chance just two minutes into the restart when a ball was floated into the Hearts box for Efford to connect with but he could only power a header wide.
The men in maroon were presented with their first chance of the second period on 50 minutes, after Halliday was crudely scythed down by Callum Slattery, an action that earned the Motherwell man the game’s first booking. Halliday dusted himself down to curl a 25-yard left-footer around the wall but wide of the target.
Five minutes later the hosts regained the lead. Haring’s headed clearance from a corner fell to the feet of Lamie, and he rifled into the back of the net from six yards.
Hearts went close not long after when Halliday was fouled at the edge of the box and Woodburn’s thunderbolt set piece was smothered by Kelly.
The game began to peter out thereafter with no real chances to speak of, though the Jambos were able to give game time to Cammy Devlin and Michael Smith in the closing stages, with Academy graduate Murray Thomas handed a second appearance, though a concerning sight was Sibbick stretchered off through injury.
Motherwell: Kelly, O'Donnell, Carroll, Lamie, Ojala (van Veen, 46'), Slattery, (Tierney, 69') Cornelius, Efford (Mugabi, 89'), Donnelly, Goss (Shaw, 69'), Shields (Nirennold, 89') Subs: Connelly, Woolery, Campbell, Mahon.
Hearts: Stewart, Haring, Woodburn (Thomas, 80'), Boyce (Devlin, 74'), Mackay-Steven, Atkinson (Smith, 74'), Moore, Halliday (Simms, 63'), Cochrane, Sibbick (Kingsley, 74'), Ginnelly. Subs: Gordon, Souttar, McEneff, Tait.
Referee: Matthew MacDermid