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<-Page <-Team Sat 26 Nov 2005 Motherwell 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Graham Rix <-auth Stewart Fisher auth-> Iain Brines
[B McLean 40]
13 of 025 Paul Hartley pen 90 L SPL A

Motherwell 1 - 1 Hearts

Stewart Fisher at Fir Park

WHO needs a director of football? On this evidence Hearts, and preferrably as quickly as possible.

A coolly taken last-minute penalty from Paul Hartley saw Hearts eke out a point for the second away game running under Graham Rix and close to within one point of leaders Celtic, but in truth this was as directionless a performance as the Tynecastle club have produced all season.

Acting chief executive Roman Romanov had said earlier in the week that someone was already working incognito on their behalf on this role. Plenty of Hearts players succeeded in keeping an equally low profile yesterday.

There was little quibble about the penalty itself, as Brian McLean – on loan from Rangers who had earlier given Motherwell the lead – barged Andy Webster in the box, but as an attritional second period wore on, flinging themselves onto the turf inside the Motherwell area had seemed the visitors’ most effective means of grabbing an equaliser. They were certainly a far cry from the winning machine that started the season.

If Rix had anticipated a warm welcome due to the fact that he and Terry Butcher go way back through their involvement with the England national team, he wasn’t to get it.

Again the Tynecastle side had started sluggishly, but at least the league table shows another point beside their name. Indeed afterwards, emboldened by Celtic slipping up at home to Dunfermline, Rix was predicting that Paul Hartley’s penalty could prove crucial come the climax of the season.

“That could be a really big point for us at the end of the season,” he said. “At least we came out in second half and showed tremendous spirit and willingness to get back into it.”

With Edgaras Jankauskas still left out due to injury (he would have played if it had been a cup final) and the returning Roman Bednar only fit enough to come on as a second half substitute after two months out, Hearts opted to field young Calum Elliot, on his own, with Saulius Mikoliunas, Paul Hartley and Rudi Skacel trying to join up.

His striking shortfall didn’t mean there was an automatic place for Michal Pospisil, however, with the former Czech Under-21 forward unable to locate even a place in the 18-man squad, after being substituted at half time at Pittodrie last Sunday.

Rix admitted afterwards he was left out purely for “footballing reasons”, but hoped to have both Bednar and Jankauskas available for next week’s home meeting with Livingston.

For Motherwell boss Terry Butcher, the late loss of the lead was as sickening a blow as the one that Richie Foran sustained to a delicate part of his anatomy during the first period. He subjected his side to a stern talking to despite the fact the Lanarkshire club’s unbeaten run has now stretched to five games, and lamented the reversal of fortunes that befell his on-loan defender.

“Brian was up at half time and down at the end,” Butcher said. “But I felt it was a stonewall decision and our team didn’t have any complaints either.”

Indeed, such was the manner in which his team retreated from their footballing instincts after the break, Butcher ended his assessment by joking he wasn’t going to go into the dressing room at half time next week.

It was an evenly-matched contest between two physical sides, temperatures were soon simmering away as referee Iain Brines struggled to keep control.

Before long Julien Brellier and Scott McDonald were eyeball to eyeball, then Takis Fyssas chased Alan McCormack, after the on-loan midfielder left his boot in.

And a shoving match ensued when Motherwell players felt Skacel had been overly theatrical in earning Martyn Corrigan a booking.

The home team took a further opportunity to heat up this icy cold day in Lanarkshire as the half hour mark approached. A break-out involving Alan McCormack and Foran ended with Craig Gordon mishandling Scott McDonald’s low drive, then deflecting Shaun Fagan’s follow-up effort over the bar.

Gordon was back in action after Jim Hamilton met Brian Kerr’s resultant corner to slap in a near-post effort. Those were the clearest openings of the game so far, so there was justice when the opening goal appeared at the same end five minutes before half time.

Andy Webster conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position. At first Jim Hamilton looked favourite to hit the dead ball, but instead broke off to the right, inviting Kerr to roll the ball into his path.

This he duly did, and although like everything else yesterday the move was laboured and telegraphed, Hamilton had enough time to lash across goal, the ball taking a deflection before McLean forced it into the net from close range.

Still, Hearts are nothing if not belligerent, and with Stephen Simmons on for Brellier at half time, and Bednar on shortly afterwards, they forced Motherwell back. Skacel was booked for diving when Foran appeared to win the ball cleanly in the box.

Robbie Neilson fired over shortly afterwards, and was then next to throw himself on the turf in the area. With more bodies pushed forward under a series of cross balls, Motherwell eventually paid the penalty. McLean wrestled Webster to the turf, and Hartley sent the goalkeeper the wrong way in front of the travelling Hearts fans.

Afterwards the goalscorer admitted the players were still adjusting to their new head coach. Given Vladimir Romanov’s track record, Rix must hope this process doesn’t take too much longer.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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