London Hearts Supporters Club

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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Steve O'Reilly
[K Lasley 45] Steven Jennings
4 of 007 Mark Reynolds og 44 ;Kevin Kyle pen 60L SPL A

Jim Jefferies bandwagon rolls on relentlessly

Published Date: 15 December 2010
THE weather may be doing its best to bring Scottish football to a grinding halt but Hearts are showing no signs of being derailed. Jim Jefferies' men maintained their eye-catching momentum last night with a sixth consecutive SPL victory which leaves them just three points behind second-placed Celtic in the table.
They were made to work exceptionally hard for their latest success by a managerless Motherwell outfit who will feel with some justification that their efforts in a fiercely contested battle, witnessed by their lowest home attendance of the season, we re worthy of some reward.

But Hearts, who secured the spoils through a Kevin Kyle penalty after Keith Lasley had cancelled out the Mark Reynolds own goal which put them in front, have developed a winning habit which had added at least a hint of added interest to life at the top of the SPL.

Jefferies would not have chosen to tinker with the winning formula concocted in recent weeks but was left with no option but to change his starting line-up as illness saw Eggert Jonsson and Ian Black sent home a couple of hours before kick-off. Darren Barr replaced Jonsson at right-back while Ryan Stevenson slotted into Black's central midfield role as the Hearts manager looked to minimise the effect of the disruption to his plans.

Motherwell's upheaval in the build-up to the contest had centered on the technical area, of course, and caretaker manager Gordon Young opted for the same personnel and system which had seen the club perform so admirably under Craig Brown and Archie Knox.

As attractive as this fixture looked on paper, between two of the SPL's form sides, it was not reflected in the number of spectators. The empty spaces around the stadium could be attributed to a combination of the bitterly cold weather and live television coverage of the match in the countdown to Christmas. The relative flatness of the atmosphere appeared to transmit itself to the players in the early stages as both teams struggled to settle into a rhythm.

Motherwell posted the first effort at goal, Jamie Murphy cutting in from the left to drive a low right foot shot narrowly wide of Marian Kello's right hand post, before Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas made a superb challenge to dispossess Nick Blackman as the striker looked set to race clear on goal.

Much of the play was disjointed, with several players clearly having problems keeping their footing on a playing surface which did not seem to have fully responded to the undersoil heating system.

It increased the degree of difficulty in producing intricate and incisive play in the attacking areas of the pitch. Hearts were able to threaten the home goal from distance, however.

Stevenson was the first to try his luck, holding his head in anguish as a rasping right foot shot from 25 yards flew narrowly over Darren Randolph's crossbar. Rudi Skacel followed his team-mate's lead, driving in a well struck left foot effort from a round 22 yards which the Motherwell goalkeeper was relieved to see pass inches wide of his right hand post.

When Hearts finally managed to forge a good situation in a wide position, freeing David Templeton down the left, they carved out a terrific opportunity to take the lead in the 29th minute. The young winger escaped the attentions of Tom Hateley to whip over a fine cross. It was met by Stephen Elliott inside the six yard box but the Irish forward was unable to keep his first-time effort down, blazing the ball over the top.

The treacherous pitch was almost the undoing of Hearts when left-back Ruben Palazuelos slipped on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Murphy a clear sight of goal. Fortunately for the visitors, the Scotland under-21 international screwed his shot wide of Kello's right-hand post.

Those who had braved the cold were treated to a dramatic ending to the first half, with Hearts taking a 44th-minute lead, only for Motherwell to restore parity from the restart.

There was a touch of controversy, not to mention confusion, about Hearts' goal. Motherwell claimed Steven Hammell had been fouled in the build-up before Kyle picked out Templeton with a cross from the right. Templeton met it with a terrific overhead kick which Randolph did well to parry.

But as the 'keeper and defender Mark Reynolds attempted to clear the danger, the latter merely succeeded in bundling it over the line for a bizarre own goal. Motherwell refused to feel sorry for themselves, however, and were level before the celebrations of the Hearts supporters had subsided. Alan Gow pierced the Hearts central defence with a through ball which Keith Lasley raced onto before stabbing a low shot through the legs of the advancing Kello.

It was the first goal Hearts had conceded since their 3-0 home defeat to Kilmarnock in October. Having been sent back to square one in their bid to extend their winning streak, Hearts began the second half with plenty of aggression and ambition. With Motherwell equally committed to the pursuit of all three points, it led to an absorbing affair.

The Gorgie side should have regained the lead in the 57th minute when a surge down the right by Barr created a clear opening for Elliott.

The striker struck the crossbar with a shot from around 12 yards before compounding the miss by heading the rebound over. But Elliott's dismay was soothed when Hearts did go 2-1 in front three minutes later. The home fans were incensed by referee Ste vie O'Reilly's decision to point to the spot when Templeton went down under Stephen Craigan's challenge just inside the penalty area.

The Motherwell captain certainly caught the winger's trailing leg, however, and the award was correct. Kyle stepped forward to convert the penalty in emphatic fashion, sending Randolph the wrong as he struck the ball powerfully to the goalkeeper's left. The evening ended in further acrimony from the home side towards O'Reilly as he sent Jennings off with seven minutes remaining. The midfielder received a straight red card for laying a hand on the official as he protested furiously when Motherwell had a penalty claim of their own rejected when Gow went down in the box.

Motherwell: Randolph, Hateley, Craigan, Reynolds, Hammell; Humphrey (Sutton 76), Jennings, Lasley, Murphy; Gow (Forbes 87); Blackman.

Hearts: Kello, Barr, Bouzid, Zaliukas, Palazuelos; Mrowiec, Stevenson; S.Elliott (C Thomson 80), Skacel, Templeton (C Elliot 90); Kyle. Subs not used: MacDonald, Obua, McGowan, Novikovas, Glen.

Taken from the Scotsman

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