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


Goal ace McLean turns sinner on Well
MOTHERWELL ...........1 HEARTS ......................1
Euan Mclean At Fir Park

MOTHERWELL kid Brian McLean went from saviour to scapegoat as he handed Hearts a last-gasp lifeline to narrow the gap on Celtic.

The rookie defender gave Well a deserved lead before half-time but wrecked all his good work in the dying seconds by gifting desperate Jambos a penalty with a clumsy barge on Andy Webster.

Paul Hartley held his nerve to convert the spot kick and rescue Hearts' second draw on the bounce after coming back from a goal down against Aberdeen last week.

More importantly, the golden strike pulls Hearts to within a point of league leaders Celtic just when they looked certain to pass up this glorious opportunity to capitalise on the Hoops' shock home defeat by Dunfermline.

It keeps on course a title challenge critics have expected to fall apart amid the recent behind-the-scenes turmoil at Tynecastle But new coach Graham Rix knows his side must show a significant improvement if they are to keep that bandwagon rolling.

Rival boss Terry Butcher hammered his players in the dressing room for failing to clinch victory, presumably with gutted McLean keeping his head down in the corner.

But as the red mist lifted Butcher admitted he'd been a little harsh on his troops.

He said: "That's two more points we've thrown away and another goal against us in the last few minutes so I'm bitterly disappointed.

"It was a rollercoaster for Brian - he's up at half-time and down at the end but I thought it was a stonewall penalty that he couldn't have any complaints about. We'd dominated the first half and should have scored more goals so it must have been a brilliant half-time team talk by me! I'm not going into the dressing room again.

"I had a bit of a go at the players but in the end it's a point against Hearts and our unbeaten run is now five games so I suppose this is me being a bit too hard on them. But ... bollocks!"

That last comment sums up the standard of a turgid opening 20 minutes and, ironically, was right where a fast travelling ball hit Richie Foran.

The collective groan of 8000 squirming fans echoed around Fir Park as the Irishman dropped like a stone clutching his groin, presumably to count them to make sure they were still there.

After treatment from the physio (and least said about that, the better) he was back on the pitch unaware that an even tougher kick in the gonads lay in wait for him and his team-mates at the end For now, though, Well were having it all their own way as a disjointed Hearts side struggled to adapt to an unfamiliar 4-5-1 formation.

With Edgaras Jankauskas injured and Michael Pospisil suspiciously bombed out of the squad, options were thin for coach Graham Rix.

He opted not to risk comeback man Roman Bednar, back in the squad for the first time since his two-month injury lay-off, instead pushing youngster Calum Elliot up front on his own and relying on Hartley and Rudi Skacel to support from advanced midfield roles.

By his own admission it didn't work and Motherwell dominated the first half.

Alan McCormack sparked a swift break forward and sent Scott McDonald scampering down the left before cutting in to have a shot.

Keeper Craig Gordon fumbled it straight at the feet of Shaun Fagan whose shot was turned around the post from close range.

Gordon redeemed himself from the corner, clawing away Jim Hamilton's low drive from the edge of the box.

The Jambos looked a shadow of the confident, slick side that rocketed to the top of the SPL under George Burley.

But when it comes to dreadful performances not even Hearts' stray passes could match referee Ian Brines' inept display.

The whistler was guilty of glaringly incorrect decisions, most of all when he booked Elliot for supposedly barging Well keeper Graham Smith.

In fact he was four yards away and it was actually the goalie's own team-mate Steven Craigan who had barged him as they both went for the same ball.

More sensible was his decision to book Martyn Corrigan and Hamilton when the defender chopped down Skacel which sparked a bust-up as both Well men rounded on the Jambo to accuse him of diving.

Then, in 39 minutes, came the opener the game so badly needed. Webster's barge on Hamilton handed Well a free-kick on the edge of the box and the chance to work a set-piece straight from the training ground.

Brian Kerr disguised the shot then slid it to Hamilton, dashing into the right of the area. His cross-come-shot was deflected into the path of Mc Leanthe big stopper swept it into the net. The news that Celtic were trailing Dunfermline at half-time gave Jambos more incentive to haul themselves back into this game and reverting to their trusty 4-4-2 system made a huge difference after the break.

Midfielder Julian Brellier was taken off and substitute Stephen Simmons sent on to partner Elliot up front.

Then came another shocker from Brines. McLean's 53rd minute sliding tackle as Skacel stormed into the box was perfectly timed to take the ball and then send the Hearts man tumbling with his follow through.

The whistler was spot on to ignore penalty appeals from Hearts fans - but to then book Skacel for diving was a joke as there was contact.

Rix turned to his bench again on the hour as Saulius Mikoliunas made way to give Bednar his first appearance since limping off in the 1-0 victory over Rangers on September 24.

Just when it looked like they'd passed up a golden chance to close the gap on Celtic, Hearts snatched a point in dramatic fashion.

McLean's barge into Webster's back was crude and he knew it, slumping to the turf as Brines pointed to the spot.

Hartley, such a dependable influence for Hearts this season, held his nerve to rattle the ball past Smithref watch
IAN BRINES was spot on with Hearts' late penalty award but overall his was the worst of many frustrating performances in the game. Rating: 4/10in association with

Taken from the Sunday Mail

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