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Motherwell 0 Hearts 0: Maturing investment continues to accrue dividends

AS Stuart McCall moved towards the door, he offered an aside.

"What about Shaun Hutchinson," the Motherwell manager asked. "If that boy's not worth £1million -"

The rest of the sentence is best left unreported, but the sentiment remains clear. For all that he had spent the build-up and, indeed, the aftermath of this drab game exalting Hearts defenders, McCall felt one of his own merited a share of the attention.

And why not? Hutchinson was excellent on Saturday, a totemic figure at the heart of a back four that kept a second clean sheet of the campaign. For all that the 21-year-old might be an unlikely candidate for the role as senior member of the central defensive partnership, he guided 19-year-old Adam Cummins through this goalless draw with the same maturity evidenced the previous week in victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Robust, committed and gifted with the physical attributes required to be a dominant centre-back, the Newcastle-born stopper appears to have eradicated the rashness that disfigured some of his early performances and is attracting attention from elsewhere. A Championship club had an approach rejected in August and, with 18 months left on his contract, Motherwell can afford to be patient.

That said, should he maintain this level of performance it is far from inconceivable that suitors might be in touch come January.

"People have asked me before, but it's not something I've listened to," said Hutchinson. "There are always rumours and if something comes up I will need to deal with it, but it's not something I've thought about. My head is all Motherwell."

Off-field issues are not something Hearts can afford to ignore at the moment but John McGlynn's side are not without problems on the pitch, either. This goalless draw means they have now scored just seven in their last nine matches, a sequence which helps explain their lowly position in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League table.

The reason is relatively obvious: a lack of reliable creative players combined with a paucity of strikers has forced the manager to prize grit over guile and sit two defensive midfielders in front of one of the division's most resolute back fours as he attempts to eke out points wherever possible.

With that in mind, this was probably a good result for the Tynecastle side. "Keeping a clean sheet is important for us," agreed midfielder Medhi Taouil. "We have been doing well away from home and it is a decent point for us."

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