Motherwell 2-1 Heart of Midlothian: Hosts clinch place in Europe next season

Ricki Lamie's second half goal clinched a Europa Conference League place for Motherwell
Ricki Lamie’s second half goal clinched a Europa Conference League place for Motherwell

Motherwell clinched a place in next season’s Europa Conference League after they beat Hearts to ensure they can finish no lower than fifth in the Scottish Premiership.

They visit Celtic on Saturday as they scrap it out with Dundee United to finish fourth after winning back-to-back games for the first time since December.

Joe Efford struck early only for Hearts’ Josh Ginnelly to level soon afterwards, but Ricki Lamie scored to spark joyous scenes in Lanarkshire.

For Hearts, it is a third game without a win, although third place has been assured for some time with one eye firmly on next weekend’s Scottish Cup final against Rangers.

And they have further injury worries ahead of that game, with defender Toby Sibbick stretchered off after falling awkwardly.

Ross Stewart, deputising in the Hearts’ goal for the rested Craig Gordon, could not have envisaged a worse start as Motherwell took the lead with their first chance.

Connor Shields latched onto Sean Goss weighted pass and his shot was parried by Stewart into the path of Efford, who had an easy finish.

However, that was to be the home side’s only moment to cheer in the first half, with Hearts very much on top.

They levelled within six minutes when a poor headed clearance went straight to Ginnelly, who breezed past three claret and amber shirts and slotted in.

And he could have made it two moments later when Andy Halliday set him free, but this time goalkeeper Liam Kelly palmed his effort wide.

Liam Boyce and Peter Haring had shots saved as Hearts dominated, with Haring also heading over the bar.

But Motherwell were a different prospect after the break, helped by the half-time introduction of Kevin van Veen up front.

Efford should really put Motherwell in front again when Shields clipped a cross to him, but despite getting goal-side of the defender he nodded wide.

However, Fir Park came to life when Lamie powered them back in front. Haring made a hash of clearing a corner kick, directed it straight into the path of Lamie, who slammed the ball home from close range.

The game was punctured by stoppages, with half chances from Ginnelly and Ben Woodburn for Hearts as they threatened to derail the party, but Motherwell comfortably held on.

Man of the match – Connor Shields

Motherwell's Connor Shields (right) put in a power of work and was excellent on the right hand side
Motherwell’s Shields (right) put in a power of work and was excellent on the right-hand side

What did we learn?

Motherwell have had just three league wins in 2022, but that is enough to have them sitting fourth in the Premiership going into the final day of the season.

While that might look like an anomaly, it’s a sign of something that has been an Achillies heel for everyone below the top three this season – the ability to put together a run of consistent results.

That two of Motherwell’s wins have been in the past five days shows their ability to turn it on when it matters.

And it was also a fitting send off for St Mirren bound Keith Lasley, who said his Fir Park farewells after 21 years at the club as a player and coach over two spells.

Hearts, clearly, are more concerned with keeping themselves ticking over before next Saturday’s showdown with Rangers.

With John Souttar and Craig Halkett nursing knocks, and Sibbick carried off in this one, manager Robbie Neilson will be a concerned man as he tries to steer the club to their first trophy in 10 years.

What did they say?

Motherwell manager Graham Alexander: “I’m ecstatic. We had to change something at half-time otherwise the game would have ran away from us but the lads were absolutely superb in the second half.

“I always had belief that this group of players would come good and get over the line.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “I thought we played really well at times but when you come to Motherwell you’ve got to deal with set plays, 90% of their goals come from set plays.

“We made changes but I still expect a Hearts team to come here and win the game. First half we did enough to win it but the second half we were nowhere near the levels we can hit.”

What’s next?

Motherwell complete their Premiership campaign away to Celtic on Saturday (12:15), while Hearts are at home to Rangers at the same time.

Player of the match

GossSean Goss

Motherwell

  1. Squad number27Player nameGoss

  2. Squad number1Player nameKelly

  3. Squad number9Player namevan Veen

  4. Squad number22Player nameDonnelly

  5. Squad number2Player nameO’Donnell

  6. Squad number4Player nameLamie

  7. Squad number16Player nameSlattery

  8. Squad number29Player nameShields

  9. Squad number14Player nameOjala

  10. Squad number3Player nameCarroll

  11. Squad number18Player nameCornelius

  12. Squad number20Player nameEfford

  13. Squad number32Player nameNirennold

  14. Squad number26Player nameTierney

  15. Squad number11Player nameShaw

  16. Squad number5Player nameMugabi

Heart of Midlothian

  1. Squad number30Player nameGinnelly

  2. Squad number16Player nameHalliday

  3. Squad number9Player nameWoodburn

  4. Squad number17Player nameCochrane

  5. Squad number5Player nameHaring

  6. Squad number11Player nameMackay-Steven

  7. Squad number10Player nameBoyce

  8. Squad number3Player nameKingsley

  9. Squad number15Player nameMoore

  10. Squad number20Player nameSimms

  11. Squad number21Player nameSibbick

  12. Squad number14Player nameDevlin

  13. Squad number2Player nameSmith

  14. Squad number48Player nameThomas

  15. Squad number13Player nameStewart

  16. Squad number12Player nameAtkinson

Line-ups

Motherwell

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 1Kelly
  • 22Donnelly
  • 14OjalaSubstituted forvan Veenat 45′minutes
  • 4Lamie
  • 2O’Donnell
  • 18Cornelius
  • 27GossSubstituted forShawat 69′minutes
  • 3Carroll
  • 16SlatteryBooked at 50minsSubstituted forTierneyat 69′minutes
  • 20EffordSubstituted forMugabiat 90′minutes
  • 29ShieldsSubstituted forNirennoldat 90′minutes

Substitutes

  • 5Mugabi
  • 7Woolery
  • 9van Veen
  • 11Shaw
  • 26Tierney
  • 30Campbell
  • 32Nirennold
  • 41Connolly
  • 45Mahon

Hearts

Formation 3-5-2

  • 13Stewart
  • 15Moore
  • 21SibbickSubstituted forKingsleyat 75′minutes
  • 17Cochrane
  • 12AtkinsonSubstituted forSmithat 75′minutes
  • 5Haring
  • 16HallidaySubstituted forSimmsat 63′minutes
  • 9WoodburnSubstituted forThomasat 80′minutes
  • 11Mackay-Steven
  • 30Ginnelly
  • 10BoyceSubstituted forDevlinat 75′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Gordon
  • 2Smith
  • 3Kingsley
  • 4Souttar
  • 8McEneff
  • 14Devlin
  • 20Simms
  • 48Thomas
  • 49Tait

Referee:
Matthew MacDermid

Attendance:
5,769

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