Matt Penney insists Motherwell defeat to Hearts was his 'most frustrating game'

Matt Penney insists Motherwell defeat to Hearts was his 'most frustrating game'
Matt Penney insists Motherwell defeat to Hearts was his 'most frustrating game'

WHEN Matt Penney’s long-range effort was acrobatically tipped around the Hearts goal by Craig Gordon on Sunday afternoon at Fir Park, the midfielder began to suspect it wouldn’t be Motherwell’s day. When a 35-yard thunderbolt from the same player crashed off the crossbar a few moments later, it seemed to sum up the little slices of misfortune that haunted the home side in Lanarkshire.

A first-half strike from Lawrence Shankland and a brace from Alan Forrest sealed the win for the Gorgie outfit as Robbie Neilson’s men returned to the capital with a 3-0 win under their belts but as is so often the case, the scoreline does not tell the full story.

Motherwell were on the offensive for most of the match but try as they might, they just couldn’t score. By full-time they had racked up 26 attempts at goal, had hit the woodwork three times and even had a goal from the returning Louis Moult chopped off for offside.

“I think that’s the most frustrating game I’ve ever been involved in, never mind played,” said Ipswich loanee Penney. “But football is about taking your chances and keeping the ball out the back of the net.

“From a distance it doesn’t look great but anyone who was at the game will know we were the better team and we deserved to win. If we take those chances it’s a different story altogether. It’s about the finer details but there are plenty of positives to take.

“If we weren’t creating chances it would be a different story altogether but we were the better team. If we tidy up and sort those little details out, we win the game.

“It can’t be that we need to score five goals to win a game. Defensively we need to be a lot, lot better. We conceded three very poor goals that we will look at on Monday.

“One of the [Hearts] boys said at the end it was one of those days. If the opposition players are saying ‘you’ve battered us for 90 minutes and it could have been a different story’, that says everything.

“We just need to tidy up those details. Hearts are supposed to be the third best team in the league and we battered them for 90 minutes. We conceded poor goals but we created. We had 26 shots – that’s enough to win three games!”

Indeed, even Gordon admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure how he finished the afternoon with a clean sheet. With the score at 1-0 to the visitors, Paul McGinn was guilty of the most glaring miss of the afternoon as he somehow contrived to hit the post when shooting into an unguarded net from just a few yards out. The right-back reacted quickest after a header had rebounded off the post but was unable to capitalise on the opportunity.

Gordon admitted that there was more than a hint of fortune about the win for his side as the Hearts captain reflected on a productive few days for the Edinburgh club after they followed up their Europa Conference League victory over RFS with another three points.

“I really don’t know how Motherwell didn’t score against us,” he admitted. “It was backs to the wall at times for us on Sunday. It’s always that little bit more difficult coming off the back of a European. We had to grind it out at Fir Park.

“But I was really pleased with how we dug in and the character we showed when we weren’t playing very well. We stayed in the game and we were dangerous on the counter. Motherwell played some very good football and they look a very good team so it was pleasing to get out of Fir Park with all three points and a clean sheet — even if I’m not quite sure how we managed it.

“We have the woodwork to thank because they struck it three times. When the ball went to McGinn and he made contact with it, I thought it was going close to the post so I got back up in anticipation of a rebound. I managed to beat him to the loose ball.

“But it was fortunate it came back along the goalline and to where I was. We rode our luck at times. We have to be honest about that. But we’ve seen the game out for a vital three points that takes us to third place and where we want to be.

“It’s really pleasing given the amount of European football we have played that we are in third place going into the break.”