London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2005-06--> All for 20051126
<-Page <-Team Sat 26 Nov 2005 Motherwell 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Graham Rix <-auth Neil Murray auth-> Iain Brines
[B McLean 40]
12 of 025 Paul Hartley pen 90 L SPL A

Well denied at the death


IT WOULD be too rude to print the word Motherwell boss, Terry Butcher, used to sum up how he felt after Hearts' last-gasp equaliser against his men at Fir Park yesterday. But it's fair to say that big Tel wasn't happy with the final result.

With the 90 minutes almost up, the Lanarkshire outfit had looked set to hold on to their one-goal lead, courtesy of a first-half strike from defender Brian McLean, and inflict on Hearts only their second league defeat of the season.

However, with the full-time whistle approaching, McLean turned from saint to sinner when he nudged Andy Webster to the ground to concede a late penalty kick which Paul Hartley converted to send Hearts just one point behind SPL leaders Celtic.

As gracious as ever, Butcher admitted that referee Iain Brines had no choice but to point to the spot and give Hearts a life line in a game they battled through the whole second half to get back into.

"It was a stonewall penalty, so it was the right decision," conceded Butcher. "Brian came in at half time on a high after giving us the lead, then came in at the end on a downer."

Certainly, McLean's 39th minute opener had Hearts searching desperately for a leveller and there was no one more elated at the end than Graham Rix, who has had a torrid time since his appointment as Tynecastle head coach. The newcomer to the hot seat must have felt the effects of déjà vu, as this was a repeat of last week's 1-1 draw at Pittodrie. Same circumstances. Again in this instance Hearts were 1-0 down at half time only to salvage a point with a second-half equaliser. This time Hartley's penalty keeps Hearts in contention following Celtic's surprise 1-0 defeat against Dunfermline Athletic.

One point now separates the two and Rix sang the praises of his players and claims he never lost faith in either game: "People were saying last week that Celtic were pulling away from us after the Old Firm game. This time we've gained a point on them. With all due respect to Dunfermline, I was surprised by the result at Celtic Park. But we've taken a point which could be a big point at the end of the season."

Rix defended his decision to play young Calum Elliot up front, citing injury problems. Elliot was handed a lone striking role and was supported by the attacking midfield trio of Hartley, Rudi Skacel and Saulius Mikoliunas.

Lithuanian striker Edgaras Jankauskas was omitted from the side due to a niggling hamstring problem, while Roman Bednar was not properly fit following two months on the sidelines and had to settle for the substitute bench.

However, Rix felt Elliot performed admirably in the absence of more recognised front men. He said: "Edgaras would have played if it was a cup final, but it was too risky in case he pulled his ham string. He could then have been out six to eight weeks. Roman wanted to play, but has only trained for four days after being out for two months so we were felt with one recognised striker in young Calum, who put in a great shift.

"I realised that he needed support at half time and once again the boys responded to that and we were much better in the second half."

On the evidence of play yesterday you would not have thought there was a 17-point difference between the two sides' league standing. But Hearts record in recent years at Fir Park is not the best, with no victories for the Tynecastle outfit since March 2002, in fact Hearts' away record in recent times has been a bit stop-start with no wins on the road since September 17 - a 1-0 win at Inverness.

The opening quarter of the match was extremely disappointing, especially with a bumper crowd of 8,131 in attendance. There wasn't one attempt on goal of any note until the 25th minute when Motherwell striker Scott McDonald, being watched by Scotland national coach Walter Smith, broke clear on the left following a pass from Richie Foran and he turned inside and fired a shot which Craig Gordon kept out well. Moments later, Brian Kerr fired in a corner which Jim Hamilton turned goalward only for Gordon again to perform heroics.

Martyn Corrigan then picked up the first booking of the match for a challenge on Skacel and Hamilton joined him in the book for having a go at the Czech midfielder as he lay on the ground. Referee, Brines, then completed a minute of cautions by booking Elliot for an over elaborate challenge on Motherwell goal keeper, Graham Smith.

Motherwell then took the lead in 39 minutes from what looked like a free kick straight from the training ground. Hamilton appeared to line up a shot but instead made a run into the box and Kerr laid the ball into him. Hamilton then drilled a low ball across goal which on-loan Rangers defender McLean stuck past Gordon with aplomb.

That was the only goal of the opening half but Hearts sure made a fight of things after the interval. Their perseverance paid off right at the death when Webster was bundled over by McLean and Hartley stepped up confidently to send Smith the wrong way to the delight of the visiting crowd from Gorgie Road.

Taken from the Scotsman

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