Hearts warmed by Christmas cheer
Hearts again defied their off-field troubles by moving within six points of third-placed Motherwell in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a 2-0 win at Tynecastle.
Ian Black, who has been working as a painter and decorator recently due to Hearts' money worries, netted from the edge of the area after 17 minutes and Stephen Elliott tapped in a second after 28 minutes following a good David Templeton run.
Hearts full-back Jamie Hamill was carried off on a stretcher midway through the second half of a match in which Motherwell struggled and slumped to their second away loss of the season.
The result saw Hearts manager Paulo Sergio celebrate his return to the dugout following a five-match touchline ban with a third win from nine matches since the first team first suffered delayed payment of their wages.
Hearts named an unchanged team following the 4-0 defeat of Dunfermline, with Templeton retained despite being ill during the week.
He gave Tom Hateley a torrid time in the first half, the Well right-back suffering the indignity of falling on his backside while trying to track his opponent.
While much of Templeton's play was good, Hateley was poor and was often left exposed against the winger, who had support from full-back Ryan McGowan.
After having a hand in both goals, Templeton was withdrawn after 62 minutes and replaced by Andrew Driver.
Driver was left out of the squad against the Pars following talks with Sergio, but on Thursday denied he had refused to play under the Portuguese and returned to the bench.
However, Ryan Stevenson was missing, the midfielder having taken a self-imposed leave of absence due to his frustrations with ongoing events at Tynecastle.
Hearts' first-team squad are still awaiting their December wages and, with their salaries overdue for a third successive month, Stevenson opted to take time out to consider his position.
How John Sutton, who was ill, must wish he had not swapped Fir Park for Tynecastle last summer.
Michael Higdon, who replaced Sutton at Well, had the game's first shot, with Marian Kello making a comfortable save.
Hearts then began to get on top and Darren Randolph reacted well to save a Templeton shot which had ricocheted off Shaun Hutchinson.
Templeton then skipped past Hateley on the left before having a shot blocked.
The rebound fell for Black, who made space for himself on the edge of the box and hit a shot into the bottom corner.
Templeton hit a shot from 30 yards narrowly over before his blistering pace took him by Hateley again.
The Hearts winger surged into the area and threaded a cross through for Elliott to tap in at the back post.
An attempted Omar Daley cross struck the post as Well attempted to find a route back into the game before half-time.
But Hateley's troubles continued after the restart. He fell attempting to intercept a cross-field pass to Templeton, who went on to shoot from a narrow angle which did not trouble Randolph.
It was his final action as Driver came on to applause and some muted booing.
Hearts were forced into another change when Hamill went to ground and was seen clutching his left ankle before being carried off on a stretcher.
Darren Barr came on after a lengthy delay and was soon penalised for fouling Keith Lasley on the edge of the Hearts area. Hateley fired the subsequent free-kick over.
Driver, playing on the right, drilled in a cross which Well diverted for a corner and Mehdi Taouil shot over as Hearts went in search of a third.
But the hosts instead settled for three points in their final home game of an eventful 2011.