Heart of Midlothian have moved back into fourth and are now just two points behind third-place St Mirren after a 2-1 win over Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership.

Lawrence Shankland netted a first-half opener, displaying his poaching instincts to convert a Frankie Kent header in the six-yard box. Either side of half-time the visitors had two situations go to VAR over penalty shouts only for them to be turned down, including one instance of referee David Munro going to the monitor. Shankland would, however, add a second, running onto a Beni Baningime pass to round Liam Kelly and slot home.

Just as it appeared Hearts would be easing to three points, Motherwell hit back from the penalty spot with Blair Spittal converting after Alex Cochrane handled in the area.

READ MORE: Steven Naismith on 'big' Hearts win, referee verdict, Forrest sub, Boyce - Full Q&A

A big three points

There has been a lot of talk during the week over the direction of Hearts under Steven Naismith. Of concern from some in the hierarchy, of some unhappiness in the camp, of an apathetic home support. Yet, Hearts sit fourth and in prime position to make the step up to third with St Johnstone at Tynecastle Park after the international break. An international break which will now be far more enjoyable around Gorgie following the three points. The manner of the win is impressive on two counts. Hearts were dominant for large spells. By the time they went 2-0 ahead they should have already been out of sight. In the first half especially the team pressed really well, were far more aggressive and looked to be on the front foot. Everything Steven Naismith wants from his side. Then, when Motherwell got back into it and they needed to stand strong, they did that with ease and battled to three points. It is a massive win. Fans have been growing impatient with the direction of the team, needing to see more progress, more performances, more results. They got that today. Now it is vital, it is followed up by positive results against St Johnstone then Kilmarnock going into a big run of games.

Beni showing some of his best

Hearts fans have seen glimpses of the Beni Baningime they remember. The midfielder who brought so much composure and intelligence to the base of the midfield after signing from Everton and before an injury which saw him miss an entire season. The No.6 had his best game in a Hearts jersey since that long lay off at Fir Park. He played a key role in and out of possession. Defensively he was picking up loose balls better than anyone, an important attribute in Scottish football, all over the pitch. He was using his body well to get in between the ball and the opposition and he was showing his game-reading ability to be in the right place at the right time to intercept low crosses into the box. Both Calem Nieuwenhof and himself ensured Hearts were able to pin the home side back for long periods. 

In possession he moved the ball so well, picking the right passes and doing so with good weight and in front of team-mates. Normally he isn't the creative type, the type to thread through balls or drive forward in possession. But he demonstrated the former with a lovely through pass to Shankland who made it 2-0 after Lowry had dummied.

Set-piece threat

These pages have explored Hearts and the team's struggles to make the most of attacking set pieces. As a team they have struggled to score in general and set pieces are such a valuable avenue to do so. It was therefore encouraging to see Steven Naismith's men provide a real threat from both corners and free-kicks. Lawrence Shankland's first-half opener arrived from an Alex Lowry corner, the first contact being won by Frankie Kent. The same trio almost combined from a free-kick in the second half but the Hearts captain scuffed his lines. He had another effort which he guided over the bar. But the most impressive move saw Stephen Kingsley make a run from the back post to meet a low corner from Lowry only to have his shot blocked. It was an 'off the training ground' routine. The team finished with an xG of 0.99 from set pieces, more than from open play. 

Away joys

Until the opening day of the 2023/24 campaign, Hearts hadn't won an away league game this year. The club's struggles on the road have been well documented in recent seasons. Whether it be poor records at certain stadiums or just a general ability to win games consistently outside of EH11, or more fairly Edinburgh. Yet, despite all the frustration the away form so far this campaign has been pretty decent. The team have picked up more points on the road than at home and with the win over Motherwell have now equalled the three away league wins across the whole of last season.

Well struggles

It is fair to say Motherwell fans were not best pleased with manager Stuart Kettlewell. There were occasional boos in the first-half as Hearts pushed the Steelmen back and penned them in. He perhaps chose the wrong starting line-up, shown by his decision to replace Theo Bair at half-time for Brodie Spencer. The first-half saw him play three in attack with Blair Spittal in an unfamiliar left wing-back role, it was a system and personnel they played during part of the comeback against St Johnstone. It didn't work against Hearts. The Gorgie side stood up to a strong response after the break before Kettlewell's decision to take off Mike Biereth was greeted by a lot of derision and boos, while it took too long to bring on Georgie Gent who had a telling impact in Perth on Tuesday. They are now winless in nine and look a completely different side to the side which won at Tynecastle. Hearts should take credit for making it so difficult for them.