The early season optimism surrounding Motherwell FC after they breezed through the Betfred Cup group stage was like a breath of fresh air.
The new-look Steelmen netted 13 goals and conceded none as they eased past Queen of the South, Morton, Dumbarton and Annan Athletic to book Friday night’s home second round tie against Hearts.
But, where new wingers Jermaine Hylton and Sherwin Seedorf were gaining the plaudits for their exploits against the lower league sides, they were getting it in the neck from disgruntled ’Well fans after barely laying a glove on the Jambos in the lashing rain.
Hylton disappointed before being hooked at half-time along with young forward James Scott, while Seedorf also had a disappointing night as he failed to test the dogged Hearts rearguard.
Disgruntled Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson read the riot act to his players in the dressing room after the match after a performance he branded “slow and predictable”.
Robbo said: “We didn’t deserve anything out of the game.
“I thought we were too slow and too predictable right from the off.
“If Declan Gallagher is your best player and he’s playing with a 39-degree temperature – a proper man, a real man.
“We didn’t have enough men, enough leaders in the team tonight.
“We were predictable. We don’t have an outlet to go longer up front.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat. You can go longer and get your wide players into the game that way.
“But we don’t have an outlet to do that.
“We don’t have anyone who can hold the ball up at this moment in time.
“And we know that, so it does have to be perfect.
“But it was too slow, too predictable and there were four or five people way way off their game.
“We didn’t do the basics well enough.
“It was a throw in they scored their first goal from.
“We work on time and time again how we defend, how we front up.
“That’s the level of player we’re able to recruit at the minute and it’s about educating them.
“They need to learn sooner rather than later or they won’t play football for me.”
All the early season optimism about Motherwell’s new look side being on course for a cup run and a top six Scottish Premiership finish have been replaced by thoughts that simply staying away from the relegation zone would represent a good season.
But such negative thoughts must be put into context as Hearts look a very decent side this season.
They dominated the first half and wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead after just eight minutes when Sean Clare sent a penalty against the right post after Charle’s Dunne’s handball in the penalty area.
B ut Hearts did hit the front on 39 minutes when Michael Smith shot low into the left corner from the edge of the box with his left foot after taking a Conor Washington pass.
Hearts went two ahead in first half stoppage time when home keeper Mark Gillespie rushed from his line to take out the onrushing Jake Mulraney at the expense of a penalty. Washington subsequently shot Hearts two ahead comfortably.
The hosts pulled a goal back on the hour when a fine Liam Polworth through ball found substitute Christopher Long on the hour mark. He comfortably shot low past keeper Joel Pereira.