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Stephen Frail <-auth Ewing Graham auth-> Stuart Dougal
[R McCormack pen 22]
5 of 011 ----- SC A

Gritty Motherwell do Phil O'Donnell proud

By Ewing Graham

Motherwell (1) 1 Hearts (0) 0

Mark McGhee may have lost out to George Burley for the Scotland post he coveted, but he and his players celebrated a victory last night which provides them with an excellent chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
# Scottish football fans' forum

They earned a home tie against First Division Dundee with this gritty display.

It was the first match at Fir Park since the tragic death of club captain Phil O'Donnell last month and his memory was honoured by a performance from his former team-mates which lacked nothing in commitment or determination.

Stuck in the bottom half of the SPL, Hearts, who won this competition only two years ago, must now win their CIS Insurance Cup semi-final against Rangers next week to prevent their season ending four months early.

The kick-off had to be delayed by 10 minutes to allow supporters thronging outside the stadium to gain admission. They were rewarded for their patience on a bitterly cold evening by a pulsating tie which emulated the drama of the 2-2 draw 10 days earlier.

Motherwell came close to opening the scoring after seven minutes when Chris Porter, who scored both of his side's goals at Tynecastle, arrived a milli-second too late to convert Ross McCormack's inviting free-kick.

Michael Stewart then picked out Deividas Cesnauskis with a corner, but the Lithuanian's shot lacked conviction and was comfortably cleared from the line by Marc Fitzpatrick.

When the goal finally arrived midway through the first half, however, it should have come as no surprise that it was Ross McCormack, the home side's outstanding player this season, who was architect and executioner.

The former Rangers forward, who last week held talks with Middlesbrough, collected a pass from Keith Lasley and his cross-shot was handled by Icelandic midfielder Eggert Jonsson.

Referee Stuart Dougal had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and, unnerved by a two-minute delay while Porter received treatment for an ankle injury, he calmly sent Steve Banks to the left and the ball to his right.

Stewart exhibited enviable technique with an overhead kick from a Jose Goncalves cross, but his shot was comfortably gathered by the alert Smith. It was nonetheless indicative of the pressure Hearts were beginning to exert as they sought to restore parity.

Unfortunately for the visitors, their lone striker, Andrius Velicka, was forced into wide areas to look for the ball and their attacks too often lacked focus.

Motherwell's potency was also diminished by the withdrawal of Porter on the stroke of half-time. The striker had failed to recover from his earlier knock and he was replaced by winger Darren Smith, prompting a reshuffle of their front line.

With McCormack less effective in Porter's central role, Motherwell lacked the fluency they displayed in the early stages and both Lasley and Robbie Neilson had their names taken as the match increasingly began to resemble a war of attrition.

Even Mr Dougal felt the strain, being replaced after an hour by fourth official Craig Thomson after suffering a calf strain.

Velicka then spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise when Paul Quinn miscued a cross from Jonsson into the forward's path at the far corner of the six-yard box; his raking drive came back off the inside of the post.

Nade ought to have forced extra time when a Saulius Mikoliunas pass took a benign deflection, but the Frenchman's first touch was woeful and Smith bravely smothered the ball at his feet.

Match details

Motherwell (4-3-3): G. Smith; Quinn, Craigan, Reynolds, Paterson; Lasley, Hughes, Fitzpatrick; Clarkson, Porter (D. Smith 45), McCormack.
Subs: Meldrum (g), McLean, Archdeacon, Murphy.
Goals: McCormack (pen 22).
Booked: Lasley, Quinn.
Hearts (4-5-1): Banks; Neilson, Berra, Karipidis, Goncalves; Mikoliunas, Jonsson, Stewart, Palazuelos, Cesnauskis (Nade h-t); Velicka.
Subs: Bjornsson (g), Beniusis Wallace, Ivaskevicius.
Booked: Neilson, Mikoliunas. Jonsson.
Referee: Stuart Dougal.

Taken from

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