Motherwell 2-1 Heart of Midlothian
A battling Hearts performance wasn't enough on Saturday as they went down 2-1 at Fir Park to Motherwell.
The Jambos took the lead in the second half through Ryan Stevenson, but the home side equalised with a stunning Craig Moore volley before Shaun Hutchinson headed home for the winner.
Late injuries meant that Gary Locke was forced into three changes from last time out. Kevin McHattie was replaced by Brad McKay, while Callum Tapping and David Smith started in place of Scott Robinson and Jason Holt.
A scrappy first half saw the ball remain in midfield, though both teams looked to utilise their respective wide men. The home side had the first chance after only three minutes when Iain Vigurs chipped a ball in for John Sutton, but the ex-Hearts striker couldn't head on target.
A moment of controversy saw Motherwell claim for a penalty on 34 minutes. Steven Hamell's cross took a touch off Danny Wilson on its way across the box, and while some claimed for a penalty Vigurs played on and blasted a shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
The lively Vigurs was proving to be a real thorn in the Jambos' side. First, he drilled a low shot at goal after skipping past two players but his effort was held by Jamie MacDonald. Then the Motherwell midfielder dispossessed Jordan McGhee in the middle of the park and slipped in Sutton, but MacDonald held from his angled shot.
Hearts could've taken the lead only a minute before the break when Jamie Walker sprung the offside trap but his shot at the near post was saved by Gunnar Nielsen before David Smith's follow-up was deflected over the bar.
Motherwell started the second period brightly and had two quick-fire shots on goal cleared off the line. First Sutton's header from a corner in the 49th minute was brilliantly punched away by MacDonald, then from another corner Shaun Hutchinson's bullet header was blocked at the post by Tapping, who threw his body in front of the ball.
The Hearts no. 1 was on inspired form as he again denied a 'Well attack, this time pouncing to his right to save from Keith Lasley's curling effort from inside the box in the 56th minute.
Not to be outdone Hearts went up the park with a break of their own two minutes later. Wilson picked the pocket of Hutchinson and fed the ball to Ryan Stevenson. He ran into the box and shrugged off a challenge to fire a shot at goal, but Nielsen got down well to hold onto the ball.
Playing with confidence, the Jambos broke forward again. Walker collected the ball on the touchline and ran 30 yards inside before pulling the trigger, unfortunately his effort was well wide of the target.
Barely 30 seconds after that, Hearts took the lead. Again Stevenson ran the ball into the edge of the box before striking low past Nielsen at his near post and into the back of the net, though a deflection may have helped his cause.
Despite playing with a new lease of the life, it was the home side who were next to score. Substitute Craig Moore was on the park for a matter of seconds when he lashed a first time volley from the edge of the box into the top corner.
Disaster struck with eight minutes remaining when the home side took the lead. A corner from the far side was met by Hutchinson inside the box and he powered his header beyond the diving MacDonald.
Wilson found himself in a superb position with three minutes to go when a Sam Nicholson corner found him unmarked, but with the skipper about to pull the trigger the ball was taken away from him by a lunging Motherwell defender.
With that, time ran out and the Jambos can consider themselves unlucky not to have taken a point from the game.
Motherwell: Nielsen, Hammell, Ramsden, Hutchinson, McManus, Sutton, Vigurs, Lasley, Francis-Angol (Moore, 67'), Carswell (Lawson, 67'), Anier (McHugh, 74'). Subs not used: Stewart, Cummins, Kerr, Murray.
Hearts: MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McGhee; Paterson (Robinson, 54'), Tapping (Holt, 76'), Hamill, Smith (Nicholson, 82'); Stevenson, Walker. Subs not used: Ridgers, A. King, Carrick, Oliver.
Referee: Brian Colvin
Top man: Ryan Stevenson