Can VAR be improved? Talking points from Hearts' 2-1 win over Motherwell

Hearts are close to making Kenneth Vargas their fourth summer signing. Pic: SNS
Hearts are close to making Kenneth Vargas their fourth summer signing. Pic: SNS

It was an exceptionally fruitful outing for Heart of Midlothian as they triumphed 2-1 over Motherwell at Fir Park.

It was to be a key victory as they now head into the international break sitting fourth in the league and two league victories in two under the belt after a series of turbulent results.

After a few early attempts, it was eventually the club captain LAwrence Shankland who put his team 1-0 up after an Alex Lowry corner and Frankie Kent header.

After some contentious VAR decisions, which did not go the Jambos way, Shankland then produced further magic as he once again beat the Wells goalkeeper Liam Kelly to double the Jambos lead in the 71st minute.

Zander Clark, who had enjoyed a quiet match, was forced to pick the ball out of his net after Hearts conceded a penalty but ultimately the 90 minutes ended with the Jambos still on top.

Following Hearts’ fifth win of the season, here are some of the biggest talking points from the fixture…

VAR interruptions

After last weekend’s Hampden expeditions for both Edinburgh squads, there has been much debate around the role of VAR and its effect on the game.

We had three VAR checks at Fir Park and while neither were as lengthy as was witnessed when Hibs faced Aberdeen, they were all met with boos and the cry for improvement in the system was exceptionally vocal.

Unfortunately for the Jambos, no check went their way, much to the dismay of Steven Naismith and, in his post-match press conference, he echoed the need for greater consistency in the referees decisions when it comes to fouls.

The first two both required referee David Munro to review the footage and the delay in play was not well received.

It’s clear the necessity for improvements around VAR is becoming increasingly more vital and, while Hearts’ clash against Motherwell offered arguably less contention than we have seen in recent fixtures, the call for change remains ever present.

An improved defence

Recent fixtures against Rangers, Celtic and the Edinburgh derby have shown Hearts’ tendency to leak goals in quick succession.

However, those errors were nowhere to be seen at Fir Park. While Hearts still did concede, thanks to an unfortunate handball, their subsequent defensive display was a vastly improved spectacle than previous fixtures have offered.

Frankie Kent, Stephen Kingsley and Kye Rowles all stood tall at the back and were vital cogs in ensuring that an equaliser was not found, even when Motherwell came up full bodied into the box.

They were aided significantly by a much more controlled and concentrated midfield set-up as well with Beni Baningime offering several glimpses of his pre-injury form.

Post match, both Naismith and Shankland were quick to praise the defensive improvements and if Hearts can continue to tighten up their lines, their fight for third will become much more feasible.

Where was Cammy?

What Cammy Devlin has done to stay on the bench remains a mystery. The Australian was neither in the starting XI, nor did he make an appearance off the bench at any point throughout the fixture.

Speaking in the week, the 25-year-old pondered if this was to do with his penchant for receiving yellow cards but Naismith simply suggested that not everyone will be happy with team selections when posed the question in the pre-match press conference.

Of course, it’s easy to argue the case he was not needed when Hearts won 2-1 but it’s highly likely he would have offered many more secure and stronger passes than his compatriot and counterpart Calem Nieuwenhof did.

Nieuwenhof received much praise from his manager after the final whistle but the question has to be asked whether more chances could have been taken with the more aggressive (and exceptionally in form) Devlin on the pitch instead.