Saturday, 23 April 2011

Heart of Midlothian 3 Motherwell 3

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 23 April 2011 - Tynecastle

This being the Easter weekend there will be a fair amount of eggs of the chocolate variety being consumed around the country. Hearts supporters of my generation have something of an aversion to eggs and know only too well to never, ever count any subsequent chickens until they are hatched (yes, I know you don't get chickens from chocolate eggs but I'm trying to make an analogy here...)

Hearts contrived to throw away a three goal lead against Motherwell today as the 'race for Europe' as the stadium announcer kept saying - get well soon Scott Wilson, by the way - has turned into something of a struggle to reach the finishing line, never mind cross it.

Having said this, it was a quite superb game of football, one of the best I have seen this season. After a sprightly opening, Hearts took the lead after 26 minutes when Ryan Stevenson was fouled by Saunders and Craig Thomson, of all people, slotted home the resultant penalty to score his first goal in first team colours for Hearts. After the hard working Stevenson hit the post, Hearts went two goals up when Rudi Skacel played a one-two with Stephen Elliott before firing high into the net. Hearts two goals ahead at the break.

Early in the second half Stevenson showed a fine piece of skill to beat Craigan but the former Ayr United man's fierce effort on goal struck one post and then another before being cleared by a relieved Motherwell defence. Stevenson was not to be outdone, however. After 52 minutes, Suso delivered a superb cross which Stevenson headed past Randolph to put Hearts 3-0 ahead and in easy street. Or so some of the younger Hearts fans thought. Those of us who know better knew the game wasn't over yet. And it wasn't.

Motherwell immediately pulled a goal back through Sutton and when Tom Hateley's free kick sailed into the net with the Hearts defence casting admiring glances, alarm bells began to ring. Hearts could not respond and Frances Jeffers really should have equalised when clean through on goal but the former Everton and Arsenal striker ballooned his effort high into the Roseburn Stand. However, the visitors got the leveller they probably deserved when Sutton flicked a header past an aghast Marian Kello - great to see the keeper back - to end the scoring at 3-3.

While some Hearts fans booed at the end, credit should go to Motherwell for a fine comeback. Stuart McCall has the makings of a fine team here and I have a feeling they'll give Celtic a run for their money in the Scottish Cup Final next month. I wish them well (if you'll excuse the pun)

For Hearts the lead over Dundee United is now just seven points. However - there aren't many games left. Four to be precise - twelve points. Next weekend Hearts head to Rugby Park to face a Kilmarnock side with nothing to play for. The following day Dundee United go to Celtic Park. The 'race for Europe' could be over by the bank holiday Monday.

Hang on - what was I saying about chickens...?

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