Hearts edged a testy and controversial encounter at Fir Park on Saturday, with Stevie Naismith’s eighth goal of the season separating the sides after a short passback from Carl McHugh. That’s where the story of the game began...


In real time, the challenge between Uche Ikpeazu and Motherwell goalkeeper Trevor Carson that led to Steven Naismith’s goal looked a keenly but fairly contested 50/50, with the Scotland striker anticipating the break of the ball before anyone else and finishing coolly to continue his fine start to the season.

However, Motherwell felt aggrieved after watching the incident back, claiming that Carson got to the ball before the hulking Hearts forward, and while no blame was being laid at his door in terms of malicious intent or at referee Bobby Madden’s door due to the speed of the incident, Fir Park manager Stephen Robinson was convinced that had the official been able to review the incident, he would have awarded a foul in his side’s favour.

After Aberdeen issued a statement last week calling for the introduction of VAR into Scottish football, Robinson threw his own weight behind introducing technology to help the country’s under-fire officials. To his credit though, he also recognised that it was a shocker of a mistake by Carl McHugh that had put his keeper in danger in the first place with a short passback, and now Motherwell face an anxious wait to see if their keeper – who was stretchered off writhing in agony – has suffered an injury that will keep him out long-term.


One thing that Hearts don’t lack, is depth, but whether there is the sufficient quality waiting in the wings to get them through the long, hard winter remains to be seen.

For now, though, they are flying high at the top of the table after securing a win at a difficult venue to maintain their 100% record five games into the campaign and have opened up a five-point gap at the top of the table.

Another thing they certainly don’t lack is belief.

“Can we stay top? I think so,” said defender Jimmy Dunne.

“If we keep performing the way we are, there is no reason why we can’t build and improve on what we are doing.

“We aren’t looking at our past wins and thinking, ‘We are delighted with that’.

“We are analysing and working on what we can improve to beat teams by bigger margins going forward. I think we will improve, instead of going the other way.

“Anything is possible in football. This league has changed over the last few seasons and it looks a lot more open that it used to.

“With the start we’ve had, we have put any doubters to the side and we look a real threat at the top of the table.

“This league has always been competitive but coming to Hearts, I saw an amazing opportunity considering how open the league is. That is surprising as it’s not been like that for a few years.

“But it is open, we have a chance and we are just trying to build something.”


Allan Campbell fought manfully in the middle of the park for Motherwell, and his duel with Peter Haring was one of the most intriguing aspects of the entire match. With the help of Olly Lee though, the excellent Haring and Hearts managed to tip the balanced in their favour, with Andy Rose and Gael Bigirimana not able to impact the game meaningfully to back up Campbell’s good work.

For all Campbell’s qualities though, the guile to unlock packed defences with a moment of guile is not one of the main weapons in his armoury, and it is when chasing a goal that the absence of Craig Tanner through long-term injury is so conspicuous.

As for Hearts, Haring’s conversion from centre-back into a dominant midfield powerhouse has been one of the revelations of their season so far. Strong in the tackle and physically imposing with great awareness of what is around him and a good range of passing, the Austrian is proving to be one of the league’s signings of the summer.


Very well. The reaction of Jimmy Dunne and John Souttar at the final whistle told the story of how much the clean sheet they had just helped their team achieve meant to them. And make no mistake, no one contributed more to that clean sheet than their young centre-back pairing.

When Christophe Berra sustained a long-term injury against Celtic back in August, it looked as though a lack of an experienced head and the loss of such a leader would be a huge blow to the Hearts backline, but new Scotland cap Souttar has blossomed to fill the void left by Berra’s absence, and 20-year-old Dunne looks a huge prospect too.

The pair stood up to the physical challenge presented by Curtis Main and later, Ryan Bowman, and repelled the aerial bombardment that Motherwell shelled into their box for long periods of the match.


If the Northern Ireland internationalist is out for a long period of time, it will no doubt be a massive blow for Motherwell given his consistently impressive showings since joining the club last summer.

Fir Park boss Robinson made a point of explaining though that Gillespie was consciously brought in as someone who could compete for the number one position rather than simply as a backup to Carson, and the former Walsall keeper will be hoping to seize his big chance.

Made a couple of decent saves here, but wasn’t tested too much as Hearts saw out the game.