A first half penalty from Liam Boyce and a Stephen Kingsley free kick saw Hearts continue their unbeaten run to move briefly to the summit of the cinch Scottish Premiership after victory over Motherwell at Tynecastle Park.
Boyce also saw a second spot kick saved after the break in what was a spirited performance from the Gorgie side, with goalkeeper Craig Gordon righly gaining praise for some key saves throughout the match.
— Heart of Midlothian FC (@JamTarts) October 3, 2021
John Souttar wasn’t risked by Robbie Neilson to be part of the matchday squad however Josh Ginnelly returned to the squad after an injury lay off. Motherwell set out clearly to have a go with Kevin Van Der Veen and Tony Watt deployed up front.
Hearts won an early penalty after Liam Kelly fouled Boyce in the box and the Northern Irishman stepped up and dispatched from 12 yards to give the Jam Tarts a lead within four minutes to continue his fine goalscoring form.
Juhani Ojala picked up an early booking for stopping Boyce’s quick breakaway. Despite the early goal it was a fairly scrappy affair with both sides not afraid to put the foot in and make a tackle. Likewise match referee David Munro wasn’t afraid to hand out the yellow cards.
Kingsley put the Jam Tarts two goals in front after 21 minutes with a sublime free kick from the edge of the box, leaving Kelly wrong footed.
The hosts really seemed to take momentum from their second goal and chased a third with Michael Smith and Barrie McKay impressing by finding lots of space down the right hand side.
Kaiyne Woolery had a rare effort deflect wide before Ojala headed narrowly over from the resulting corner.
Kelly did a great job at keeping out Beni Baningime’s powerful effort with half time approaching. Motherwell on the other hand began to get wasteful with possession, often getting caught out playing one pass too many. Boyce also had a low effort comfortably saved by the Well stopper.
Watt drew Gordon into a fine save over the bar then couldn’t follow up from close range at the end of the first half.
Robbie Neilson’s side continued with their momentum of leading the match as Cammy Devlin went inches away from putting his side 3-0 up within the first few minutes of the second half.
The hosts won another penalty for a foul on Devlin in the box but this time Kelly stood tall to deny Boyce the chance to extend the lead, who fired straight down the middle. At the other end, Gordon got down low to make a strong save to prevent Woolery getting Well back in the game.
Baningime then went inches away from grabbing a goal before substitute Andy Halliday tried to get in on the action with a shot wide of the post as the atmosphere level increased around Tynecastle Park
The Steelmen had a good spell of pressure with around 20 minutes to play. Watt tried his luck with an acrobatic effort before Woolery tested Gordon’s reflexes. Gordon then made another important stop to deny Mark O’Hara’s attempt to get a goal back. Next it was O’Donnell fired wide after making a rare run forward into the Hearts box.
Both sides continued to make cynical fouls which angered the Tynecastle faithful as the visitors did all they could to turn their positive spell of play into a goal.
Halliday found space in the box but his shot was deflected before Gordon denied Ojala’s glancing header from point blank range as the clock ticked down on full time.
Gary McKay-Steven should’ve rounded off the scoring in added time but he fluffed his lines despite Gordon being well off his line and finding himself past the last line of defence. However that didn’t stop Hearts picking up all three points. Motherwell finished the day in fourth place.
Here’s three things we learned as Hearts impressed v Motherwell:
Hearts right back Michael Smith was a constant threat, bombing forward, interchanging with Barrie McKay and pinging good balls into the box for a player in Maroon to capitalise on. A player with a real will to win who may be key both defensively and offensively in the Jam Tarts drive to remain at the top end of the table, starting with a trip to Ibrox to face Rangers after the international break.
Hearts unbeaten Premiership run continues
“Hearts can only lose it from here” was the first question at the post match press conference and they are rightly gaining a lot of plaudits, finding themselves top of the league and unbeaten after 8 games this season. Very impressive form for a team who just got promoted from the Championship.
Hard Working Well ‘unlucky’
Tony Watt worked his socks off up front for the Steelmen and was really unlucky not to grab a goal in this match with Craig Gordon pulling off some point blank saves to show why he still is Scotland’s number one. With the attitude the Well players showed as well as some of the chances they created, they shouldn’t be too disappointed by this result.
The 2-0 scoreline probably didn’t quite reflect the performance levels and work rate of the Motherwell players. It must be said that despite losing, the away support of almost 1000 fans stood by their side, singing and backing them until the final whistle.
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