In truth it was the sending off of Ian Black, for a horrific challenge on Keith Lasley, which really turned the game in Motherwell’s favour. The first half had been largely poor fare with clear chances being rare at either end of the park. Murphy headed over when he needed an extra six inches of height to make a true connection with Humphrey’s cross while Jennings had a good shot saved after a nice passing move.
What happened next?
Hearts were probably the slightly more dangerous side in the first period but were generally reduced to shooting from distance. The two exceptions – both following Motherwell mistakes – saw Randolph deny them with brilliant saves, the second in particular being noteworthy as he blocked a dink from Driver which seemed certain to find the net.
After the break Motherwell were more eager to press forward even before Black was dismissed for his shocking tackle. Remarkably the midfielder even had the cheek to dispute the decision as Lasley lay prone on the turf but thankfully his injury was not as bad as first feared.
Stuart McCall instantly changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation with Law adopting the role of central playmaker while Humphrey and Murphy were on either side of Higdon. The target man did not look fully fit but still had enough nice touches to suggest he will contribute in the months to come.
Against ten men Motherwell camped outside the visiting box but ironically went in front on the break. Law slipped the ball through the legs of a defender but just as Murphy seemed to hesitate and lose the chance, he moved well to create more space and found the bottom corner of the net.
Chances to increase the lead were slim but until the last ten minutes Motherwell were in complete control. The final stages were a little more nervous but even when under pressure the home defence was resolute. Lasley collected his second yellow card for an ill-disciplined lunge on the edge of the box but the wall spared his blushes by blocking the free kick. Another couple of set pieces were successfully defended and at the full time whistle the fans, players and manager could all celebrate a return to the top of the league.