Motherwell 0 Hearts 1: Hearts luck brings McGhee to the boil

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The Independent Online

Hearts gained a measure of revenge for losing on this ground in the Scottish Cup a few weeks ago, but it summed up a frustrating occasion that they required an own goal from the Motherwell defender Stephen Craigan to decide a match wrecked by a capricious wind.

For the hosts, the result has not ended their ambitions of playing in the Uefa Cup next season. However, for Hearts, this could breathe fresh life into their own season, as they will be keen to prove when Rangers come to Tynecastle on Wednesday.

This contest was at the mercy of the fierce gale that swept across Fir Park. Hearts had the elements behind them in the first half and Motherwell could barely get out of their own half.

Every Hearts delivery was aided by the wind, as Deividas Cesnauskis illustrated after only two minutes when he whipped in a corner that fell to Christian Nade, whose hooked shot was destined for the net until Graeme Smith produced a remarkable save.

Nade and then Lee Wallace both conjured up goal attempts as Hearts produced swift counter-attacks, but when they took the lead after 11 minutes from another breakaway, the goal was wrapped in controversy.

David Clarkson suffered a head knock in a Motherwell attack and was flat on the ground, as Hearts picked up possession. The referee, Charlie Richmond, refused to stop play and the move ended with Eggert Jonsson's 25-yard shot taking a wicked deflection and Craigan slicing his attempted clearance past Smith.

Mark McGhee, the Motherwell manager, launched a furious tirade at Richmond, while Clarkson was later replaced by Simon Lappin.

In the second half, Hearts adapted to their handicap far better than their opponents had. The energetic performances from Steve Frail's team hustled Motherwell out of their stride and it took the introduction of Darren Smith to offer any width for the home side.

Smith set up Marc Fitzpatrick for a shot that was just wide and then drew a foul that allowed Ross McCormack to bend in a 77th-minute free-kick that was met by the head of Craigan and then superbly clawed away by goalkeeper Steve Banks. From Steven Hammell's subsequent corner, Banks denied Fitzpatrick.

The Motherwell pressure was incessant and four minutes from the end, McCormack curled a 25-yard free-kick over the wall, but again Banks was equal to it.

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