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John Robertson <-auth Neil White auth-> Iain Brines
7 of 019 ----- L SPL H

Foran failure foils clean sweep over Hearts

Neil White at Tynecastle
FINALLY, Hearts avoid the sting against Motherwell. Terry Butcher’s team were four for four against them before this, including a last-minute, extra-time winner in the CIS Cup semi-final. They would have achieved the clean sweep yesterday, but for a missed penalty from Richie Foran just before the break. Hearts have ended the Premierleague contests without scoring a goal in four games against Motherwell.

Hearts, and their manager John Robertson, have pinned their hopes on a swashbuckling game that employs two out-and-out wingers, yesterday the Lithuanians, Saulius Mikoliunas and Deividas Cesnauskis, while Motherwell have battered out points like this with industry and cohesion, and those qualities have done for the aspiring flamboyance of Hearts. The neutral must hope, though, that Robertson does not learn his lesson.

Hearts may have escaped with that penalty but they could have scored four or five themselves. What little caution they did hold on to was thrown to the wind late on, Mikoliunas, Dennis Wyness and Lee Miller all passed up good chances, while Gordon Marshall, the Motherwell goalkeeper, saved well to deny Mikoliunas in the first half.

When Hearts didn’t go wide they had the option of hitting Lee Miller, the on-loan Bristol City striker who again showed why his value is rising faster than that of diesel, with a sure first touch, slick link-up play and the confidence to try a 25-yard chip, or a dipping drive from an impossible angle. Those audacious efforts did not trouble Marshall, but the keeper saved heroically at the climax of a 10-minute deluge late in the first half, diving low to his left to claw a Mikoliunas header out of the corner after a Cesnauskis cross from the right. “I thought it was Gordon Banks, not Gordon Marshall. A wonderful save,” said Butcher.

Motherwell did their best work coming off the ropes at the end of that assault. Foran hit a shot from the wing of the penalty box which Craig Gordon managed to divert over, then Webster conceded the penalty when his flailing arm hit the ball as he contested a long one from just inside his own half. Foran side-footed the ball off the outside of the left-hand post.

Hearts escaped again after the break. A Motherwell counter gave them an extra man on the right. Shaun Fagan, by now completely neglected by Cesnauskis, got the ball by fortune, and as he pulled the trigger, left-back Lee Wallace lunged over to block.

Hearts were being bullied out of possession and it looked more likely that they would be picked off. Only in the centre, where Neil MacFarlane was flawless on the ball and off it, did Hearts match the bluster Motherwell had in players like Foran, David Partridge, Stephen Craigan and Marc Fitzpatrick. Partridge and Craigan were both booked and will miss the match against Rangers in two weeks, but it was a lenient refereeing display from Iain Brines, one that favoured Motherwell’s muscle over a Hearts’ intent on scoring the perfect goal.

They got a look at it when Mikoliunas exploited a four-on-four by dribbling round the first two defenders and taking the others out with a square ball which Miller hit first time from 18 yards, but his shot spun wildly over. Then, with seven minutes left, an even better chance. Wallace, an outstanding prospect at 17, put Cesnauskis in down the left, who cut back for Mikoliunas just inside the box, but the shot was too high. At the end, Wyness, a substitute for Burchill, had a volley blocked by Marshall after a Miller knockdown, but for all their enterprise, Hearts have finished the season winless in five games against Motherwell. At least this time, beauty tamed the beast.

STAR MAN: Neil MacFarlane (Hearts) Player ratings. Hearts: Gordon 6, Nielson 4, Pressley 6, Webster 6, Wallace 8, Cesnauskis 6, MacFarlane 8, Hartley 6, Mikoliunas 7, Miller 7, Burchill 6 (Wyness 72min, 6)

Motherwell: Marshall 8, Corrigan 5, Craigan 7, Partridge 7, Quinn 7, Fagan 5 (Paterson 70min, 6), Fitzpatrick 6, Kerr 6, Foran 8 (Keogh 79min, 5), Hamilton 6, Clarkson 6 Booked: Partridge 64, Mikoliunas 69, Cesnauskis 88, Craigan 89

Referee: I Brines

Attendance: 9,337

Taken from

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