MOTHERWELL came back down to earth following their five star performance in Inverness with a turgid 0-0 draw at home to Hearts on Saturday.
The result means they have only scored one goal in their last five games on home soil and have only recorded one victory at Fir Park all season.
On this occasion they did at least keep the back door closed to earn a first clean sheet since the opening day trip to Dingwall in August.
The sides only met last month when a wonder strike by Hearts defender Danny Grainger was just enough to split the sides at Tynecastle, and from the start it seemed clear that this match would be another tight encounter.
The away side did edge the opening exchanges with Darren Randolph diving to his left to palm away a powerful Ryan Stevenson free kick.
Unfortunately on 13 minutes Randolph became the subject of scrutiny for another reason as Darren Barr’s shot spun off Shaun Hutchinson and was grabbed by the goalkeeper who then caught on the onrushing Callum Paterson with his trailing leg.
Paterson’s teammates demanded action, but referee Crawford Allan let it go, and the young striker’s only reward for his bravery was a sore head.
He was in the wars again a few minutes later as Stevie Hammell ‘took one for the team’ by making sure Hearts’s quick break came to an abrupt end by blocking Paterson and earning a yellow card.
At the other end Michael Higdon used his head to test Jamie MacDonald from Chris Humphrey’s cross and then Paterson and Henrik Ojamaa both had efforts from the edge of the box which failed to give either ’keeper cause for concern.
The game livened up a little at the start of the second half as Hearts were forced into a reshuffle with Grainger being forced off, and with no defender on the bench, was replaced by midfielder Mehdi Taouil.
This allowed ’Well a little more space on the right and from this channel Jamie Murphy played in Higdon, who tried to round MacDonald but was denied by the Hearts number one.
The ball fell to Murphy, but MacDonald was back up to put the ball behind.
Humphrey was getting more and more freedom and looked the best chance of lighting up this game and he came close by cutting in from the right to first clip the top of the bar with a cross and then tested MacDonald with a left foot shot.
On the other wing Ojamaa almost set up up Higdon for a late winner, but Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas got across to prevent the striker reaching double figures for the season.
The point came at a cost as, in the last minute, Hammell headed for the dressing room early after suffering a head knock.
The draw saw ’Well slip back to sixth in the SPL, ahead of last night’s trip to Dundee United.
Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell (Francis-Angol 89), Law, Hutchinson, Hateley, Humphrey, Ojamaa, Higdon, Murphy, Lasley, Cummins. Subs not used: Hollis, McHugh, Daley, Carswell, Kerr, Hetherington.
Hearts: MacDonald, Grainger (Taouil 51), R McGowan, Barr, Webster, Stevenson, Walker (Novikovas 68), Holt (Sutton 82), D McGowan, Zaliukas, Paterson. Subs not used: Enckelman, Robinson, Driver, Smith.
Referee: Crawford Allan.