HEARTS arrived at Fir Park looking for the victory which would have underlined their title credentials while putting pressure on league leaders Rangers and dropping Celtic into third place. To say that it did not go to plan for the visitors would be something of an understatement.

The narrative changed as a consequence of this emphatic win by the home side while Hearts have now won only one of their last six matches, which is hardly championship form.

If they are looking for a way in which to effect a reversal of their fortunes (and they surely must be) then they could do worse than study the application shown by their opponents on Saturday.

Only three weeks ago Motherwell had concluded a five-game winless sequence with a dismal display in a 6-1 home defeat by Rangers. Since then they have won convincingly at Aberdeen and this victory was even more comprehensive.

Indeed, such is the confidence coursing through the veins of Graham Alexander’s players that defender Ricki Lamie, who scored their second goal with the deftest of headers from a Sean Goss free-kick, is now contemplating a return to European football next season for the Steelmen.

“That’s it exactly!” he said. “You’ve got to aim high, especially at this time of the year. Games are coming thick and fast and, if you can keep on picking up three points, then you’re going to be there or thereabouts.

“It’s a very busy schedule before the winter break so we need to keep this form and these energy levels up. We were missing a few players today but it’s good to see our squad rotation working and to see the guys who came in doing so well.

“We won at Pittodrie just before the international break and it would have been easy for us to have become a bit complacent during that fortnight. But we worked hard right through it and I think we put on an even better performance against Hearts, who’ve been a really strong team this year.

“The weather’s starting to change and the pitches will get heavier and suspensions and injuries will start to mount up, which is why we want to get as many points as we can right now. We need to show consistency.”

Connor Shields had opened the scoring – and his Motherwell account – when he drove home from six yards after a deflected Sean Goss shot had fallen perfectly for him. On an afternoon where Craig Gordon had to literally pull out the stops to deny Shields, Kaiyne Woolery and Barry Maguire, Liam Kelly had only one save of note to make, from substitute Liam Boyce late on.

“My goal was a case of perfect timing, for us if not for Hearts,” added Lamie.

“They’d just gone down to ten men but, even when it was 11 v 11 I thought we were on top. We limited them to counter-attacks and I thought we dealt with their front line reasonably well. Scoring when I did was like the final nail in the coffin for them.”

As convincing as Motherwell were, Hearts made their job easier with a listless display which was the antithesis of their performance in the thrilling 5-2 victory over Dundee United two weeks earlier.

Former Rangers winger Barrie McKay, their only outfield player to merit pass marks, provided an honest assessment of the contest.

"They obviously had a game plan and played it well,” he said. “We couldn't get into the game and maybe we were a bit naive in the way we tried to play. We need to do the ugly side of the game as well.

"We need to turn them a bit more and earn the right to play. If you put the ball in behind them, they’ll head it down and maybe one of our guys will pick it up. It just didn't seem to click for anyone here.

"Every team is going to try to do the same against us. If they let us play our game, we can hurt any team in this league. Unfortunately, we didn't do that on Saturday. We still created some chances which, on another day, we put away – and that's without playing well. We can definitely learn from this.”