All’s Well as Jambos are stunned

Craig Thomson converted a 26th-minute penalty after referee Willie

Collum adjudged Steven Saunders to have fouled Ryan Stevenson as

the ball came over from a Rudi Skacel corner. Skacel netted a

second after 36 minutes and Stevenson headed in a third after 53

minutes to put Hearts – with Marian Kello back in goal – on course

for a comfortable win. But two minutes after Stevenson’s effort,

John Sutton headed in a Steve Jones cross and after 60 minutes the

striker appeared to get a faint touch on Tom Hateley’s free-kick.

Sutton, who has been linked with a free transfer move to Hearts

this summer, then headed in an 88th-minute equaliser as Scottish

Cup finalists Well completed their comeback. Having once held a

15-point advantage in the race for third, Hearts now hold a

seven-point lead over fourth-placed Dundee United, who earlier

today beat Kilmarnock 4-2. Hearts’ pursuit of third place has

stuttered in recent weeks and they now have one win in eight games

– the March 19 defeat of St Mirren. The 3-2 victory over the

Buddies was Kello’s previous most recent appearance and the

goalkeeper made a surprise return. After initially being ruled out

by a back spasm, “a private matter” led to his non-selection with

manager Jim Jefferies insisting it was a decision he and the

goalkeeper made alone, without the intervention of majority

shareholder Vladimir Romanov. Kello showed his value to Hearts just

before half-time, having only been called into action after the

hosts had established a two-goal lead. Slippery conditions as a

result of torrential rain contributed to a scrappy opening

punctuated by Collum’s whistle. After Skacel had a header saved by

Darren Randolph and Thomson curled a free-kick over, Hearts were

awarded a penalty when Saunders was adjudged to have brought down

Stevenson as Skacel’s corner entered the area. Collum had awarded

two penalties in Celtic’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen

last weekend and sent off three Dundee United players in awarding

three spot-kicks in their 4-0 loss to Rangers at Tannadice in

midweek. Saunders received only a caution before full-back Thomson

scored from 12 yards. Stevenson hit the post with a shot on the

turn after Kello’s long clearance up field before Hearts’ second

came after 36 minutes. Skacel and Stephen Elliott combined, the

latter playing a neat return pass for the midfielder to strike into

the roof of the net. Kello was then called into action, saving a

point-blank header from Saunders before spreading himself to save

from Jamie Murphy, who was earlier booked for handball. Hearts

captain Andy Webster went off at the interval to be replaced by

Adrian Mrowiec but the hosts continued to press forward. Thomson

curled a free-kick over before Stevenson ignored a free Skacel in

the middle and struck both posts with an effort from an acute

angle. Stevenson, though, found the net soon after, heading in

Santana’s pin-point cross from the right to give the hosts a 3-0

lead. But two minutes later Motherwell pulled a goal back when

Jones burst down the right and crossed for Sutton to head in.

Webster’s presence in defence was missed once again as Hearts

conceded after 60 minutes. Sutton appeared to get a touch on Tom

Hateley’s free-kick from wide on the left which went into the

bottom corner. Kello saved a long-range Hateley effort, a Francis

Jeffers shot and substitute Maurice Ross’ close-range strike as

Motherwell’s confidence grew. Jones then saw a left-foot shot come

back off the post before Jeffers blazed over after breaching the

offside trap to latch onto a long ball. But two minutes from time

the visitors got their just rewards as the hosts’ defence was

breached once. Gavin Gunning’s cross from the left was met by

Sutton, who stooped low to head in beyond Kello and earn a deserved

draw.