AFTER looking like they were going to bludgeon their way to safety, chalking up win after win, this was the equivalent of a slight pressing of the brakes for Hearts.

Victories over Rangers and Hibernian in their previous two games had lifted confidence around Tynecastle to previously unseen levels heading into this encounter against Motherwell.

Daniel Stendel’s side again gave a decent account of themselves – both Steven Naismith and Liam Boyce missed late chances to win the game – but a draw was probably the fairest result on balance of play.

Hearts now head to Paisley on Wednesday night for a crucial re-arranged game against St Mirren. Victory in that one would lift them back off the foot of the table and in this form you wouldn’t bet against it.

“We wanted to win today but this is the result,” said Stendel. “After 1-1 I thought we could change the result but we wanted it too much. But it was a good week for us and we need to keep going like this. Wednesday is the next big game.”

Motherwell were not overly upset to be departing with just a point, although Stephen

Robinson looked baffled at the decision not to award Jermaine Hylton a first-half penalty after he was cleaned out by keeper Zdenek Zlamal.

It looked as if the forward might have embellished the strength of the contact but

referee Don Robertson gave neither a Hearts free-kick for a dive nor a penalty to the visitors.

“Everyone that was watching knows it should have been a penalty,” said the Motherwell manager. “It was a two-footed tackle at 1-0 and, if we score, then the game would possibly have a different ending with us getting three points.”

Hearts’ recent revival has not made them impervious to the sort of defensive clanger that has been a regular feature of a fairly dismal season.

The fall-guy on this occasion was the usually reliable Craig Halkett who after 21 minutes thudded what looked a straightforward clearance straight against Chris Long. The forward gratefully accepted the gift, strode purposefully towards the Hearts penalty box before dispatching a composed finish low beyond Zlamal.

Hearts posed far more of a cohesive threat than in the early days of Stendel’s reign and were unfortunate not to score on two first-half occasions.

The first was an audacious effort from around the halfway line by Sean Clare after Motherwell keeper Mark Gillespie had been drawn out of his goal to clear a ball. Allan Campbell was the most composed man inside Tynecastle as he calmly chested the ball off the line.

The second was a more traditional effort from Steven Naismith who saw his goalbound effort diverted beyond the far post.

Naismith, though, was heavily involved when Hearts drew level four minutes into the second half. The Scotland forward showed great determination to bustle his way to the goal line before cutting the ball across the face of the goal. Washington couldn’t miss.

It was all Hearts by this point although Motherwell retained a threat on the counter. Pushing for a late winner, they nearly got one five minutes from time. A corner found its way through to Jermaine Hylton and his left-foot drive was brilliantly parried by Zlamal.