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WATCH IT HEARTS; HIBS 2 MOTHERWELL 0Heckingbottom warns city rivals that Hibs are flying up top-6 fast lane.

Byline: Michael Gannon

Paul Heckingbottom last night warned city rivals Hearts that Hibs are racing up behind them in the fast lane.

The Easter Road men are now squarely in the Jambos' rear-view mirror after beating Motherwell.

While the Tynecastle side crashed to a shock defeat at Hamilton Accies yesterday, Hibs motored on thanks to a spot-kick from Scotland new boy Marc McNulty and David Gray's header.

They are now five points clear of the Steelmen in sixth and just two points behind Hearts.

Heckingbottom was thrilled with his side's victory and said: "The lads are looking at Hearts as well - they have just seen the result at Hamilton.

"Listen, those games don't define where you finish in the league but they are better matches when there is something riding on them.

"Everyone enjoys it better - myself on the sideline, the players on the pitch and the fans in the stand. But being really clinical about it Hearts are just the next team in front of us.

"Whoever that is, we just want to try and catch them. We have been looking up the table anyway.

"It can be dangerous too - the boys have shown good hunger. Then you get to the top six and it's like you're not chasing anymore.

"But we are - we want to be as good as we can be."

Hibs were good value against a subdued Well side with McNulty signing off for Scotland duty with his seventh goal in seven games.

Heckingbottom said: "I told Marc the hard work's done here so he can go and enjoy himself.

"He's in good form and at a stage now where he's played enough games to be match fit. I don't think he can be going in any better shape."

Hibs got a fright at the start and at the end - but it was stress-free for them in between.

Well fans had been jammed up on the rain-swept M8 motorway but it was Hibs who were almost left in the dressing-room as the Steelmen gave them a scare inside 45 seconds.

Gboly Ariyibi torched Gray down the right and his cross got Lewis Stevenson in a fankle as he managed to divert the ball on to his own post rather than behind to safety.

Hibs survived, settled and began to cruise it. Stevie Mallan was a whisker away with a dipping long range pop at goal and McNulty hit the side-netting from Flo Kamberi's cross.

The frontman should have burst the net soon after when Daryl Horgan picked him out but he headed straight down the throat of Mark Gillespie.

The Well keeper didn't have a hope moments later though when the Scotland call-up rammed home from the spot after Tom Aldred had blocked McNulty's drive with his hands.

Hibs took total charge and moved the ball around sweetly on the skidding surface while Well struggled to get up the park.

When Aryibi managed to finally find space, Gray took one for the team by taking him out for a booking.

He looked hurt in the process but the Hibs skipper used his head again six minutes before the break when he superbly nodded a second goal from Mallan's corner.

McNulty wasn't far off a third just before the break but there was too much heat on the Kamberi cross.

Gray was still struggling after his injury and lasted just two minutes of the second period.

His replacement Sean Mackie's first involvement was to take a yellow for halting youngster Jack Hastie's attempt to get Well going again.

The Steelmen were showing some signs of life. Curtis Main drilled straight at Ofir Marciano but Hibs' midfield were snapping at heels and denying Well the room to breathe let alone pick a pass.

Hibs were quite content to contain - then spring on the break.

Horgan is pretty handy when he has space to run into and he burst down the right before his drive was deflected behind by Allan Campbell.

Motherwell were riding their luck.

Gillespie came flying out for Mallan's corner, only to punch the ball off Paul Hanlon and send it spinning towards his own goal before Richard Tait hooked off the line.

The danger remained as Horgan was found in space but he dragged his shot wide with the goal gaping before Kamberi was off target.

Marciano kept out Aldred's header and Danny Johnson's close-range dig was deflected over at the death but Hibs are on the right road to the top half under Heckingbottom.

Well still in reckoning | Michael Gannon Stephen Robinson insists Motherwell won't give up the fight for the top six despite coming a cropper in the capital.

The Fir Park men slipped five points behind Hibs after the sixth-placed Easter Road side won the crunch clash yesterday.

Robinson admitted: "There are just three games to go - so of course it's a blow to us getting into the top six.

"We wanted a minimum of a point. Losing makes it more difficult now - but why not go and win the next three games?" The Well boss thought his men were unlucky to end up pointless in Leith after spurning chances at the beginning and end of the 2-0 defeat.

Robinson said: "The first minute of the game and the last summed it up.

"The ball hits the post and comes back off Jake Hastie when it's a tap-in then Danny Johnson has a great chance but it ricochets back off himself three or four yards from goal.

"It's disappointing as we've lost from two set-plays.

"But I can't be too hard on the boys as I felt we dominated large parts of possession, especially in the second half.

"In the final third of the pitch we just lacked the percentages. Our final pass and cross were the difference.

"Had James Scott put in a chance from a yard when he takes a touch it might have made it interesting in the last 15 minutes.

"The players gave me everything. Coming to a place like this we've completely changed how we play.

"Our build-up was good up to a point but we lacked a killer instinct in the final third."

Well went behind to a first-half spot-kick when Tom Aldred was punished for handball.

But Robinson said: "I've not seen the penalty back yet but nobody was complaining too hard."

CAPTION(S):

RAIDS OF GRAY Hibee skipper David left) heads in No.2 before being forced off with an injury

ROBINSON refusing to give up fight for top six
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 17, 2019
Words:1086
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