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Jim Jefferies <-auth Simon Buckland auth-> Mike McCurry
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Hearts 0 Motherwell 0

By Simon Buckland, PA Sport

The battle for a UEFA Cup place proved an inconclusive affair as both Hearts and Motherwell failed to find a finish at Tynecastle.

Neither side were able to dominate for long periods in what was a well-balanced contest between the teams third and fourth in the Scottish Premier League.

Hearts knew victory would put them seven points clear of their closest rivals in the hunt for Europe, but Colin Cameron's strike against the bar was the closest they came, several loud penalty shouts aside.

Motherwell posed danger themselves however, Lee McCulloch, a target for Hearts earlier this term, also crashing a fierce effort against the woodwork.

With their next two home league games against the Old Firm, Hearts will consider this an opportunity missed, but at least it leaves one issue unresolved during the Championship run-in.

With Rangers in a commanding position at the top and Falkirk's ground problems making a relegation play-off unlikely the quest for third spot at least promises the prospect of late-season drama.

Both teams were without their first-choice keeper because of injury, Gilles Rousset stepping for Antti Niemi while Stevie Woods was recalled for the visitors to cover Andy Goram's loss.

Motherwell, aware their European aspirations were at stake, offered an immediate debut to on-loan Bolton defender Greg Strong and restored Don Goodman to the fold for the injured Sasa Curcic.

Motherwell offered the first threat after just three minutes, Ged Brannan bursting through the middle before sending a 20-yard drive just wide of the mark.

Hearts' response was a volley dragged wide by Darren Jackson after Gordan Petric met a deep free-kick from Stevie Fulton to set up the chance on the edge of the area.

Dutch defender Benito Kemble was given a free header by poor Hearts marking only for the effort to be blocked and Strong was unable to convert the loose ball.

Motherwell came closer still after 12 minutes when McCulloch's superb strike hit the bar.

Hearts were shaken but almost capitalised on the reprieve two minutes later when Wales found a way past Kemble and set up the onrushing Fulton who hooked wide under pressure.

Wales produced an agile back header from an Adam cross on the half-hour mark, but the effort lacked the venom to trouble Woods in the Motherwell goal.

Hearts had penalty claims refused when Cameron tumbled under challenge from Strong.

In first-half injury time, Hearts had another penalty appeal rejected and again it was Strong on Cameron which prompted an angry exchange of words between the pair.

After 55 minutes, Adam created time and space for an angled drive. Woods did well to save with his legs, but Cameron snatched at the rebound.

Hearts carved out a genuine opening after 62 minutes when Makel's trickery enabled him to pick out Adam, but the Frenchman was slow to seize the opportunity and his eventual shot was blocked.

Recognising Hearts were now in the ascendency, Motherwell made a double switch, bringing on Paul Harvey and veteran Pat Nevin for Twaddle and Adams respectively.

Moments later, McCulloch diverted the ball goalwards from eight yards but Adam redeemed his slackness at the other end of the field by clearing the ball off the goalline.

After 68 minutes, a Jackson burst was supported on the right by Cameron and his powerful drive struck the upright with no Hearts player able to pounce on the rebound.

A goalmouth scramble almost saw the deadlock broken after 75 minutes as after good work from Goodman, substitute Nevin fired over from close range for Motherwell.

Next it was Hearts' turn to press, Flogel controlling the ball well before drilling a low effort at goal which Woods again handled expertly.

In the final minute Brannan saw a clever overhead kick go just over then Goodman's flying header allowed McCulloch a snap shot on the turn which went just off-target.

There was still time for one last controversy, an apparent injury-time push by Nevin on Naysmith in the area going unpunished.


Hearts: Rousset, Flogel, Naysmith, Pressley, Petric, Makel, Fulton, Cameron, Jackson, Adam, Wales (McSwegan 71).

Subs Not Used: McKenzie, Simpson, Tomaschek, Severin.

Booked: Naysmith, Adam.

Motherwell: Woods, McMillan, Corrigan, Kemble, Strong, Valakari, Brannan, Adams (Harvey 63), McCulloch, Goodman, Twaddle (Nevin 63).

Subs Not Used: Brown, McGowan, Nicholas.

Booked: Goodman, Corrigan, McCulloch, Strong.

Att: 13,102

Ref: Michael McCurry (Scotland).

Taken from

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