Hearts left to stew on another defeat as Motherwell hold firm with 10 men

Motherwell's Callum Slattery scores to make it 1-0 over Hearts at Tynecastle. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)
Motherwell's Callum Slattery scores to make it 1-0 over Hearts at Tynecastle. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

In this case, Hearts will need to use it to their advantage after their early season domestic woes continued in a 1-0 defeat to Motherwell at Tynecastle. The home team, who were booed off at full-time, lost to Callum Slattery’s sublime goal in a first half display that at best could be described as passive.

This game was Hearts' ninth in the space of 30 days across domestic and European competition and for long spells they were devoid of any spark. In fact, Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly did not make his first save until the 86th minute.

With Aberdeen up next, they now have 13 days to rest and work on ironing out the problems that have led to them amassing only four points from as many games. Taking into account defeats to PAOK in the Europa Conference League, the latest being Thursday’s 4-0 loss in Greece, this was Hearts' fourth loss on the spin.

Despite the sapping physical effects of playing 90 minutes of football in the stifling Greek heat on Thursday evening, not to mention the mental scars from bowing out of Europe with a whimper, Hearts technical director Steven Naismith opted against making wholesale changes for what was their ninth game in the space of a month.

There was a reshuffle of sorts, as Alex Lowry, the fit again Peter Haring and Yutaro Oda were drafted in. But in the first half in-particular, those alterations failed to have the desired effect.

The openings Hearts created in the opening 45 minutes could only be described as half chances. Lawrence Shankland shot wide from an angle inside the area, Alex Lowry saw a free-kick come back off the wall before having a shot deflected wide himself.

In between, Motherwell carved open the hosts with what was a sumptuous, aesthetically-pleasing goal delivered by Slattery. The midfielder combined well with team-mate Blair Spittal in a slick passing move that left Slattery with space inside the area to tuck a shot past Zander Clark.

Hearts thought they had earned a reprieve by the sight of the assistant referee’s flag for offside but a quick VAR check confirmed the goal was valid.

Slattery then came close to scoring from his own half after Natty Atkinson gave the ball away in the centre circle. The back-tracking Clark was relieved to see the effort just miss the target.

Hearts dominated the second period but were aided by a Motherwell team who were content to try and preserve their slender advantage.

There had been a scare for the home team minutes after the restart when Spittal found himself in space just outside the box but he flashed a drive just wide.

Hearts substitute Kyosuke Tagawa headed over from an Atkinson cross before Shankland and Liam Boyce had shots, both from promising positions, deflected wide for corners as Motherwell manfully defended Liam Kelly’s goal.

Paul McGinn’s dismissal in the 69th minute for earning a second caution in bringing down Boyce only added to the frequency of which Hearts were throwing balls into the Motherwell box.

For all that pressure, it took until Shankland’s 86th minute drive, which was straight at Kelly, for Hearts to register their first shot on target.