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Steve Naismith was able to breathe a little easier last night after Hearts claimed all three points at Fir Park.

His opposite number, Stuart Kettlewell, however, is feeling the pressure after sliding further down the table. The Fir Park side have now taken just two points from their last nine games.

Lawrence Shankland netted a goal in each half to take his tally to five goals in his last five games and offer a timely reprieve for Naismith after the criticism had built around the Hearts manager. Blair Spittal pulled Motherwell back into it from the spot but it was too little, too late.

It will take more than one win for pressure to dissipate around Naismith but this was a victory that he and his side badly needed.

As for Motherwell, the stats make for grim reading. They are just two points shy of bottom of the table Livingston and cannot buy a win.

Kettlewell has revealed that the players will not be having any time off going into the international break as he looks to set them to work on the training ground to arrest their current form.

It might have been different had Theo Bair made the most of had an early chance to settle Motherwell but he snatched at his effort from just inside the box and the chance was lost.

It seemed to set the tone for the opening stages of this game as Hearts then took control of the game. Liam Boyce left Naismith gasping in shock in the dugout after he contrived to miss from close range when it looked easier to score.

Still, the Tynecastle side were not spooked by the failure to take their early chance as they stuck at it – and got their reward.

Alex Lowry’s corner was met by the head of Frankie Kent with his flick-on falling perfectly for Shankland who pounced to steer the ball well beyond the reach of Liam Kelly.

It might and, probably should have, got worse for Motherwell when Boyce was caught by the high boot of Dan Casey. Referee David Munro took his time as he looked at the monitor before eventually deciding that there was no foul.

Kettlewell switched things at the break as he reverted to a 3-5-2 formation with Brodie Spencer taking over from Blair.

It failed to turn the game, however, with Hearts carrying the more menace of both sides in the final third. Stephen Kingsley almost got himself on the end of another corner but his effort was deflected wide.

VAR took another long look after Shankland had gone down in the box with a huge sigh of relief around Fir Park when, again, play was allowed to continue with no penalty awarded.

There was an inevitability about Hearts adding to their tally. It came again from Shankland as he collected a perfectly weighted pass from Beni Baningime before rounding Kelly and slotting into an empty net.

Motherwell forced their way back into the game via the spot. Spittal’s effort left Zander Clark with no chance as he sent the keeper the wrong way to give the Fir Park side a foothold in a game that Hearts had had the best of.

Hearts. though, defended resolutely to see the game out. Whether it is a reprieve or a stay of execution will remain to be seen after the international break.

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