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Hearts fail to kill off Motherwell
Hearts blew a chance to maintain their lead over Dundee United What a waste of a first half-effort. Hearts were three up at the break but allowed Motherwell to come back and earn a 3-3 draw at Tynecastle yesterday. With Dundee United winning 4-2 over Kilmarnock earlier in the day, Hearts appear to be stuttering towards holding onto third place in the SPL. Craig Thomson scored a penalty in the 26th-minute after referee Willie Collum ruled that Steven Saunders had fouled Australian Ryan Stevenson as the ball came over from a Rudi Skacel corner. It was Skacel who scored the second after 36 minutes and Stevenson headed in a third after 53 minutes. All this made it look as if Hearts - with Marian Kello surprisingly back in goal - on course for a comfortable win. However, two minutes after Stevenson's goal, John Sutton headed in a Steve Jones cross and after 60 minutes the striker appeared to get a faint touch on Tom Hateley's free-kick. Sutton, who has been linked with a free transfer move to Hearts this summer, then headed in an 88th-minute equaliser as Scottish Cup finalists Well completed their surprising comeback. Having once held a 15-point advantage in the race for third, Hearts now hold a seven-point lead over fourth-placed Dundee United. Kello's previous most recent appearance was the 3-2 win over St Mirren on 10 March and the goalkeeper made a surprise return. After initially being ruled out by a back spasm, "a private matter'' led to his initial non-selection. Manager Jim Jefferies insisting it was a decision he and the goalkeeper made alone, without the intervention of majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov. Kello showed his value just before half-time, having only been called into action after the hosts had established a two-goal lead. Slippery conditions as a result of torrential rain contributed to a scrappy opening punctuated by Collum's whistle. After Skacel had a header saved by Darren Randolph and Thomson curled a free-kick over, Hearts were awarded a penalty when Saunders was adjudged to have brought down Stevenson as Skacel's corner entered the area. Collum had awarded two penalties in Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen last weekend and sent off three Dundee United players in awarding three spot-kicks in their 4-0 loss to Rangers at Tannadice in midweek. Saunders received only a caution before full-back Thomson scored from 12 yards. Stevenson hit the post with a shot on the turn after Kello's long clearance up field before Hearts' second came after 36 minutes. Skacel and Stephen Elliott combined, the latter playing a neat return pass for the midfielder to strike into the roof of the net. Kello was then called into action, saving a point-blank header from Saunders before spreading himself to save from Jamie Murphy, who was earlier booked for handball. Captain Andy Webster went off at the interval to be replaced by Adrian Mrowiec but the hosts continued to press forward. Thomson curled a free-kick over before Stevenson ignored a free Skacel in the middle and struck both posts with an effort from an acute angle. Stevenson, though, found the net soon after, heading in Santana's pin-point cross from the right to secure a 3-0 lead. But two minutes later Motherwell pulled a goal back when Jones burst down the right and crossed for Sutton to head in. Webster's presence in defence was missed once again as Hearts conceded after 60 minutes. Sutton appeared to get a touch on Tom Hateley's free-kick from wide on the left which went into the bottom corner. Kello saved a long-range Hateley effort, a Francis Jeffers shot and substitute Maurice Ross' close-range strike as Motherwell's confidence grew. Jones then saw a left-foot shot come back off the post before Jeffers blazed over after breaching the offside trap to latch onto a long ball. But two minutes from time the visitors got their just rewards as the Tynecastle defence was breached once more. Gavin Gunning's cross from the left was met by Sutton, who stooped low to head in beyond Kello and earn an unexpected draw.
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