Motherwell keeper Trevor Carson injured as Hearts prevail 1-0 at Fir Park

Peter Hartley launches a first half effort at goal
Peter Hartley launches a first half effort at goal

A single Steven Naismith strike for Hearts was enough for the league leaders to sink Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday, writes Craig Goldthorp.

Both sets of fans were making plenty of racket early on, with a healthy away support of 2922 through from Edinburgh.

Goalmouth action from Saturday's Motherwell-Hearts clash (Pics by Ian McFadyen)

Goalmouth action from Saturday's Motherwell-Hearts clash (Pics by Ian McFadyen)

Motherwell almost went ahead on eight minutes when Travor Carson's long punt upfield was flicked by Johnson to Main whose powerful left footed volley from the edge of the box was brilliantly turned round the post by keeper Zdenek Zlamal.

Motherwell continued their early dominance with Richard Tait's left footed shot from a tight angle being parried wide by Zlamal.

Barely two minutes later, a Gael Bigirimana free-kick from the right was partially cleared to Peter Hartley whose rasping left footed volley was deflected over off Hearts' Jimmy Dunne.

Hearts' first chance on 20 minutes saw Calumn Morrison through on Carson after a breakaway but he shot straight at the Northern Ireland international - whose day was soon to end early in cruel circumstances.

After his recent heart scare, Hearts manager Craig Levein watching today's match from the Phil O'Donnell Stand

After his recent heart scare, Hearts manager Craig Levein watching today's match from the Phil O'Donnell Stand

Hearts went ahead against the run of play after 28 minutes and the goal was a disaster for 'Well's Carl McHugh.

He was short with a backpass to Carson, who sustained an injury going in for a 50/50 challenge with burly Hearts forward Uche Ikpeazu and appearing to take a stud in the leg.

The ball broke to Steven Naismith who gleefully struck the ball into the unguarded net for 1-0.

After a two-minute delay while Carson got treatment, he was stretchered off injured and replaced in goal by Mark Gillespie.

Gillespie's only previous competitive appearance for Motherwell came in the 5-0 Betfred Cup home win over Edinburgh City on July 17.

Ikpeazu was then booked for an infringement against Tom Aldred before Johnson shot weakly at Zlamal.

An inventive Bigirimana free-kick from near the right touchline saw him square the ball to Cadden whose weak effort from 18 yards was comfortably saved in the final action of the first half.

The first chance of the second half saw McHugh head weakly at Zlamal after a Bigirimana delivery from the left.

A corner by Hearts' Olly Lee was met by Jimmy Dunne whose header was tipped wide by Gillespie.

Hearts were having their best spell of the game and a fine move involving Ikpeazu, Djoum and Mitchell ended with the latter's effort being thwarted in fine style by the onrushing Gillespie.

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson made a double switch on 61 minutes, sending on Elliott Frear and Ryan Bowman for Cadden and Johnson respectively.

Aldred shot well wide for the hosts before Hearts replied with a fizzing left footer just wide by Lee.

Smith then played in dangerman Ikpeazu who shot wastefully over.

After Bigirimana had been booked for a foul on Djoum, Ikpeazu had a shot blocked on the line.

The visitors' Smith had a left footed effort deflected for a corner as the Edinburgh side held on relatively comfortably.

Hearts are now five points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with maximum points from five games.

Motherwell: Carson (Gillespie 30), Tait, McHugh, Aldred, Hartley, Cadden (Frear 61), Campbell, Rose, Bigirimana, Main, Johnson (Bowman 61).

Referee: Bobby Madden

Crowd: 7218