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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth None auth-> William Collum
[J Sutton 54] ;[T Hateley 59] ;[J Sutton 88]
8 of 010 Craig Thomson pen 25 ;Rudi Skacel 36 ;Ryan Stevenson 53L SPL H

Sutton has the last word

24 Apr 2011

By the end, the players left the field looking as though they had been assailed by this game.

It was disconcerting at times, the way six goals were shared, five yellow cards were shown, and a three-goal lead was conceded. The rain had been relentless, but then so, too, was the gripping nature of this encounter. "It will feel like a win for them," said Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager. "It feels like a loss to us."

He was not forlorn, since he considered this the best performance by his team in several weeks. Although Hearts had established a 3-0 advantage with only 37 minutes left, he could recall near-misses in front of goal and bemoan the loss of Andy Webster to a groin strain, and so wonder if it might also have been an emphatic victory. Instead, Jefferies could only accept the fickleness of the game, the way it can be a torment.

Heavy raindrops battered incessantly on to the top of the Tynecastle dugouts; a drumming sound that was remorseless and melancholic. The conditions – cold, damp and stern – made the pitch slick and caused the game to be dishevelled.

Motherwell were bedraggled in defence, and this lack of conviction hung over them like an air of despondency. Steven Saunders was certainly overwrought as he tangled with Ryan Stevenson at a corner, before hauling him over. Having awarded seven penalties in his previous three games (as well as showing four red cards), referee Willie Collum was unlikely to hesitate, and he immediately pointed to the spot. He can be overly officious and his decision to book Jamie Murphy when he inadvertently handled the ball earlier in the game was misguided – "the worst booking I've seen in my career," said Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager – but this decision was merited, and Craig Thomson converted decisively from the spot.

It will feel like a win for them. It feels like a loss for us

Shaun Hutchinson was then brushed aside by Stevenson, who struck a low shot that skidded off the upright. Hearts could sense unease in their opponents, and it stirred some ruthless instincts. Skacel was incisive as he worked a one-two with Stephen Elliott, then surged through to lash a right-foot finish high into the net.

Only moments into the second-half, an arch piece of devilment by Stevenson, when he backheeled the ball around Stephen Craigan, ended with him striking a shot that hit one post, ran along the goal-line then hit the other post, before bouncing clear. As if to stress their command, Stevenson then added a third goal in their next attack, meeting Suso Santana's cross with a deft header.

By then, Motherwell looked bereft of all but their sense of wretchedness. They were revived, though, when John Sutton headed beyond Marian Kello from Steve Jones' whipped cross. Tom Hateley emphasised their renewed faith when his curling free-kick from the left evaded everybody in the penalty area and bounced into the far corner. A kind of recklessness began to shape the play, opening the game out, and Hateley and Francis Jeffers both saw shots saved by Kello, while Jones hit the post.

It fell to Sutton to score the equaliser with another header as he emphasised why Motherwell have offered him the best deal their wage budget allows to extend his contract beyond the end of this season. The striker has now scored 17 goals this season and the decision he faces is an agonising one. "We've got something good going here, and I like coming into training," Sutton said. "That will be a factor."

Taken from the Herald

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