Motherwell began their post split Scottish Premiership fixtures with a well deserved 1-0 home victory over Hearts at Fir Park on Saturday.
Lionel Ainsworth’s stunning 27th minute right foot strike from outside the box - after Scott McDonald’s pass inside - earned the spoils for ‘Well and lifted them back up above St Johnstone into fourth place.
The hosts - who handed keeper Craig Samson his debut - almost went behind on seven minutes when Hearts’ Jamie Walker shot just wide of Samson’s left hand post.
But ’Well fans were celebrating on 27 minutes when Ainsworth’s low shot flew into the bottom right corner, his second goal in three games after his strike in Inverness earlier this month.
Claret and amber right back Josh Law sustained a knock and eventually limped off on 39 minutes to be replaced by Ben Hall, as the hosts went in 1-0 up at the interval.
Skipper Keith Lasley didn’t re-appear for the second half after sustaining a groin strain and he was replaced by youngster Jack Leitch.
Flying ‘Well winger Marvin Johnson wasted a golden chance to put his team up when he latched onto a poor backpass by Hearts’ Callum Paterson but hesitated and the chance was lost.
Motherwell’s top scorer Louis Moult was also culpable of missing a great opportunity on 59 minutes when he shot inches wide after being put through by Johnson.
After Cadden had been booked for a foul, McDonald missed a sitter when he shot over after brilliantly dispossessing Prince Buaben.
Samson had little to do during the 90 minutes but he earned his win bonus by brilliantly turning Paterson’s volley from Nicholson’s corner round the post.
‘Well centre back Stephen McManus superbly blocked an effort by Hearts’ Juanma, before Johnson had a shot saved at the other end after producing a great piece of skill to find space.
‘Well comfortably saw out the remaining few minutes to seal the win.
Fir Park gaffer Mark McGhee said: “I thought it was a very good performance.
“Lionel was on fire in training this week. We were really happy to be putting him in and he took his chance.
“He has had a difficult, frustrating season but we all believe in him, we all know he has a huge amount of talent and we’re trying to find a way of allowing him to deliver it.
“Today was maybe a start to building his confidence. Next season could maybe be his year.”