We fielded our strongest eleven following the midweek experiment in Paisley. Juliewicz, O’Brien, Murphy and Lasley were in action with Saunders, Coke, Forbes and Humphrey making way.
Hearts kicked off and the ball entered the Motherwell half for a few seconds. The next time it crossed the line was when they kicked off for the second time, two minutes later. We scored from a short corner with the stadium clock showing one minute. Hateley tapped it to O’Brien and his cross found Reynolds at the far post. The ball was headed home to give us a perfect start.
Hearts were hardly given a touch for the next ten minutes as we pummelled them with some lovely passing and fierce midfield grafting. Jennings and Lasley won everything in the centre and fed O’Brien or Murphy on the flanks. We seemed not to notice the effect that the poor surface had on the ball and proceeded to exchange passes and press home attack after attack.
The second arrived in minute 13 when Sutton was presented with an easy tap in when Lasley delivered a tasty chip following Hateley’s set up. It looked like a landslide. Ruddy had no saves to make in the first period and his involvement was a restricted to taking a couple of goal kicks and a free kick or two. The game was so one-sided that it would not have been a surprise to discover that a team of schoolboys had stolen the maroon jerseys.
O’Brien and Murphy exchanged the ball from wing to wing, Jutkiewicz covered miles and held the ball when needed. Sutton played a midfield role and attacked or defended as needed. The back four also played their part. Hammell and Hateley were frequently in wide attacking positions. It is difficult to express the first half stranglehold that we had in this game.
Jeffries made three changes by the first ten minutes of the second half and the game took on a slighty different character. Our defence was tested at times though it looked unlikely that Ruddy would be beaten. Shortly after the hour it looked like game, set and match when Jutkiewicz tapped in following a fine move. Hammell got to the dead ball line and Murphy trapped his low cut back. His shot was parried and our number nine was on hand to take care of the spill but the east stand assistant raised his flag. We’ll need to see a replay of that one!
The third goal came soon after. O’Brien’s fine volley from a tight angle thundered into the net and it seemed that the win was sealed. Whether we had a lapse in concentration or not will have to wait for the post-mortem but we conceded a minute later. Templeton was the culprit and his spin and shot (Hearts first effort on target) beat Ruddy and gave the small away support something to cheer.
We shut the door for the rest of the game and played out the remainder of the game secure in the knowledge that the first half efforts had ensured the points. Twelve unbeaten games have now moved us to a share of third place and a realistic hope of European football next season. The players can have a few days off and recharge the batteries as a free weekend lies ahead.
All at Fir Park deserve huge congratulations for the 2010 transformation. Let the run continue!