Friday 30 September 2016, 19.45, Fir Park

Scottish Premiership Friday night action between Motherwell and Heart of Midlothian.

Motherwell were originally called Wee Alpha Motherwell, following a merger in 1885 of two factory sides in the town Glencairn FC, who had been founded in 1877, and Alpha FC, formed in 1881.  They became Motherwell FC in 1886, turned professional in 1893, joined the Scottish second division and within two years had moved to their current home, Fir Park.

The club have won major trophies in domestic football; the Scottish League title in 1931-32, the Scottish Cup in 1951-52 and 1990-91, the Scottish League Cup in 1950-51.

Motherwell filed for administration in 2002 and 19 players were released by the club as the Lanarkshire side struggled to keep their head afloat.  Despite all these problems, they managed to stay in the top league throughout and have been there continuously since 1985.

A number of players left at the end of the season and manager Mark McGhee made several signings for the new campaign – Ben Heneghan a defender from Chester, full back Richard Tait from Grimsby Town, forwards Jacob Blyth from Leicester City and Ryan Bowman from Gateshead, midfielders Lee Lucas from Swansea City, Carl McHugh from Plymouth Argyle and Craig Clay from Grimsby Town, winger Luka Belic on loan from West Ham and goalkeeper Dean Brill from Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Motherwell currently sit in 5th place in the twelve team Premiership, with two wins, 2 losses and 3 draws.

I was hoping for better fare than when I last saw Hearts, in their uninspiring draw at Aberdeen in August.  Hearts sit in third place, with three wins, two draws and two defeats.

Live on BT Sport, and a damp Friday night in Motherwell both would have affected the size of the crowd, but it’s still disappointing that only 4,666 were in attendance.  An accident on the main road through to the west from Edinburgh and traffic chaos probably also impacted on the away support.

Kudos to the groundsman at Fir Park.  The pitch has been shocking the last few times I’ve been to Motherwell, but it’s looking fantastic tonight, despite the rain that’s been on most of the day.

The first real effort of note came in 7 minutes after both teams had already shown their attacking intentions.  Paterson came forward on the right for Hearts from his own half and burst inside, reaching the edge of the box before passing left to Watt.  He cut inside and had his shot blocked by Heneghan.  It came back to him and his shot was blocked by Heneghan again.

Motherwell broke forward in 10 minutes and Rossi was a little fortunate not to go in the book for a foul on McDonald about 35 yards out.  Hammell swung the free kick into the box and Bowman nodded just wide, although the flag had gone up for offside.

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Moult was also lucky not to get booked in 19 minutes when he took out Nicholson on half way as the Hearts winger went down the right.

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In 20 minutes, Tait crossed the ball into the Hearts box from the right and Moult headed it across goal from the back post. Kitchen managed to touch it away from goal off balance but it fell to Clay, who brought it down quickly and hammered at goal, but Hamilton made a fantastic one handed save and Bowman put the rebound over the bar.

McDonald picked up a loose ball in 22 minutes and released Bowman down Motherwell’s left.  He cut the ball back to Lasley, but he sliced his shot wide from 22 yards.

Motherwell had another effort in 24 minutes when McDonald ran onto a throw in, but shot wide from the corner of the box.

The home side were forced into a change in 26 minutes when Cadden limped off.  I’d been looking forward to seeing him in action after being impressed with him when I saw him on loan to Albion Rovers in 2015.

There was some nice skill by Watt in 29 minutes when Djoum picked him out on the edge of the Motherwell box.  He took the ball down and went past Heneghan in one movement to take the ball into the box, but Tait was across to cover and clear the ball away.

A very strange decision in 30 minutes, when Clay tackled Nicholson in the Hearts box and the referee gave Motherwell a corner, but it came to nothing.

In 37 minutes, Walker picked up the ball for Hearts in his own half and came forward, exchanged passes with Kitchen and burst into the box, but he delayed his shot and was forced wide.  His cutback was cleared by McManus.

McDonald did well to create some space for himself in the Hearts box in 41 minutes after receiving a pass from Moult, but his firm shot was straight at Hamilton, who beat the ball away.

Hearts came forward in 42 minutes and Walker danced to the by-line and smashed the ball across goal with Sammon waiting to pounce, but it hit Heneghan and dropped perfectly for Samson in goals.

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Just before the break, Nicholson’s chipped free kick from the by-line was missed by Samson, but headed to the edge of the box.  Lasley’s attempted pass forward was picked up by Nicholson, who swerved past two defenders and shot for goal from 25 yards.  It wasn’t well struck and looked to be going wide but McManus stuck a foot out and watched in agony as the ball changed direction and rolled into the net to give Hearts the lead.

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Not a very inspiring first half with defences on top.  Hearts had plenty of possession but lacked a cutting edge, with the home side looking more dangerous.

Djoum found Rherras on the left for Hearts in 51 minutes and he burst between two defenders before playing it to Walker.  His shot from 20 yards took a nick off a defender and went just wide of the post with Samson a spectator.

In 53 minutes, Lucas crossed into the Hearts box and found McDonald who thumped a header off the bar via the fingertips of Hamilton, but he was offside as he put the rebound into the net.

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A nice turn by Clay in 55 minutes saw him feed McDonald, but the Well striker’s shot from the edge of the box was screwed wide.

Not as obvious as the mistake in the first half which led to Motherwell getting a corner which wasn’t, but they should have had one in 57 minutes when Moult headed the ball off Paterson.  They do say things even themselves up.

Rherras came in from Hearts left in 58 minutes and again found Walker and his strike for goal was half blocked by Heneghan, which enabled Samson to push the shot away.

A cross into the Hearts box by Tait in 60 minutes was headed goalwards by Bowman, but there wasn’t enough power to trouble Hamilton.

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Motherwell claimed for a penalty in 62 minutes following a corner but I couldn’t see what the claim was for before Hearts broke up the other end and Nicholson found Paterson in the box but he lashed his first time effort high over the bar.

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Hammell’s curling free kick from the touchline in 63 minutes into the Hearts box was met by the head of Moult, but it was straight at Hamilton in the Hearts goal.

A fabulous piece of skill from Watt in 65 minutes saw him beat Hammell on the left and charge forward into the Motherwell box but his well struck shot was blocked by Heneghan.

Watt was involved again in 67 minutes when he released Nicholson on the right hand side of the box and his ball across goal was parried by Samson.  It fell to Walker, but he got his feet in a tangle and couldn’t get a shot away.  The ball came to Sammon on the left and his cut back came to Paterson 22 yards out and he hammered a left foot shot high into the top corner giving Samson no chance.  It was some strike with his ‘wrong foot’.

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Kitchen’s cross into the box in 72 minutes found Paterson and his volley was held by Samson as Hearts tried to finish the game off.

Up the other end a minute later and Ainsworth found McDonald on the right who cut inside and curled just wide of the far post.

A good ball into the box from the right by Ainsworth in 75 minutes found the head of Moult, but he headed high over the Hearts goal.

Johnsen latched onto a throw in down the right for Hearts in 78 minutes and nicked the ball past Heneghan as he ran into the box, but Tait got across to send the ball behind with Watt free in the middle.

Hearts’ Nicholson hobbled off in 80 minutes after putting in a power of work.

Watt played a one-two inside the Well box with Djoum in 82 minutes and his low shot thumped back off the post, before hitting the keeper, who managed to scramble the ball behind.

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Hearts sub Muirhead ran onto the pitch in 83 minutes and went to take a Hearts corner.  His cross was cleared to the edge of the box where Djoum curled a sublime finish into the corner of the net to give Hearts their third.

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Some nice build up play by Motherwell ended with Ainsworth curling just wide from the edge of the box in 87 minutes.

Motherwell won a free kick in injury time 25 yards from goal and McFadden sent a magnificent effort into the top corner to give his side a late consolation.

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A comfortable win in the end for Hearts with two stunning second half strikes, although these were possibly topped by McFadden’s free kick.

McDonald was always bright up front for Motherwell and Heneghan threw himself at everything at the back.  For Hearts, Watt showed some great touches and some fine skill and Nicholson was a constant danger.

I have to make mention of the ‘Motherwell Bois’ who never stopped singing and bouncing (and banging their bloody drum) all the way through the game.

Full Time: Motherwell 1 Hearts 3.

Admission: £23

Motherwell: 1 Craig Samson, 2 Richard Tait, 4 Ben Heneghan, 6 Stephen McManus, 3 Steven Hammell, 12 Chris Cadden (Lucas 26), 14 Keith Lasley (Ainsworth 71), 20 Craig Clay, 77 Scott McDonald, 9 Louis Moult, 11 Ryan Bowman (McFadden 71).  Subs: 13 Dean Brill, 7 Lionel Ainsworth, 18 Lee Lucas, 23 Dom Thomas, 24 James McFadden, 25 David Ferguson, 30 Jack McMillan.

Hearts: 1 Jack Hamilton, 2 Callum Paterson, 14 John Souttar, 4 Igor Rossi, 3 Faycal Rherras, 6 Perry Kitchen, 11 Sam Nicholson (Buaben 80), 10 Arnoud Djoum, 7 Jamie Walker (Muirhead 83), 32 Tony Watt, 18 Conor Sammon (Johnsen 69).  Subs: 13 Viktor Noring, 5 Alim Ozturk, 8 Prince Buaben, 19 Krystian Nowak, 20 Bjorn Johnsen, 23 Robbie Muirhead, 30 Rory Currie.

Referee: Steven McLean

Programme: £3.

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