Motherwell keep up Euro charge

Motherwell furthered their quest for a European place after a whirlwind start at Fir Park took them 11 points ahead of Hearts after a 3-1 win.

Last Updated: 13/03/10 at 17:54 Post Comment

Sutton: Netted for home side

Sutton: Netted for home side

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Mark Reynolds headed home inside two minutes and John Sutton finished off a smart move as the hosts threatened every time they went forward in the first quarter.

Jim O'Brien lashed home a third in the 69th minute and only a quickfire response from Hearts substitute David Templeton prevented Motherwell leapfrogging third-placed Dundee United on goal difference.

Craig Brown brought back strikers Jamie Murphy and Lukas Jutkiewicz and midfielder Keith Lasley as Motherwell returned to a 4-4-2 formation following Tuesday's goalless draw at St Mirren, and they immediately swept back to top form as an impressive display extended their unbeaten run to 12 SPL games.

Hearts, who left out striker Christian Nade after he was handed a final warning following his bust-up with team-mate Ian Black, lacked a cutting edge up front.

And their defence, which again featured contract rebel Jose Goncalves even though Dawid Kucharski returned to ease Jim Jefferies' injury crisis, was punished for slack marking at a corner less than 75 seconds after kick-off.

No Hearts player followed O'Brien as he collected Tom Hateley's short pass and the winger hung the ball up to the far post where Reynolds nodded home from close range.

Motherwell were hemming the visitors inside their own half and Jutkiewicz shot over from 16 yards after Murphy's clever reverse pass.

The hosts doubled their lead in the 13th minute when more bright play cut Hearts open. Lasley ran on to Hateley's lofted pass down the right channel and controlled the ball well before hooking it beyond the far post where the unmarked Sutton stroked home.

Sutton was soon inches off target with a header after Hearts again allowed Hateley to find O'Brien, this time from a quickly-taken free-kick, and Janos Balogh then got down to hold Lasley's effort after O'Brien had just missed Murphy's low cross on the counter-attack.

Hearts stemmed the tide midway through the half but never looked like capitalising on several long throws and free-kicks, and Motherwell finished the half the stronger side with Murphy and O'Brien bringing a real fluidity to their play.

Gary Glen replaced Calum Elliot for Hearts but they made a poor start to the second half and Jefferies made all of his changes within six minutes, with wingers Suso Santana and David Templeton replacing Ryan Stevenson and Paul Mulrooney.

Well continued to look comfortable, though, and Balogh pushed Murphy's shot past his near post following an O'Brien cross.

Hearts were effectively playing four up front and they began to push Motherwell back but Glen and Eggert Jonsson were off target from long range.

And they were grateful for an offside flag in the 65th minute when Jutkiewicz slotted home the rebound after Murphy's strike from Stevie Hammell's low cross was parried.

There was no such reprieve three minutes later when O'Brien lashed high into the net after Jutkiewicz had just missed Murphy's driven cross at the near post.

Hearts replied 60 seconds later with their first shot on target when Templeton collected Suso's cross before spinning and firing the ball into the top corner.

Motherwell had the chance to move above Dundee United but Sutton blazed over after Stephen Craigan's header found him in space eight yards out and the game fizzled out in the final 15 minutes.

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