This is a hostage to fortuneÖ.Iíll need a half-litre of Lambrusco to eat my words with if the season ends in tears.††† But having witnessed Hearts draw at Dundee last week I reckon things are looking up.†††† Dundee fans presumably thought their second-half dominance was worthy of victory, but Hearts defended magnificently against the finest-moving attack in Scotland and only twice did Niemi actually have to make his usual world-class saves to deny them their equaliser.†† That they forced their goal from a corner rather than open play is significant, and if Gary Wales had scored at the death rather than hitting the post, I reckon the media would have hailed it a superb archetypal away performance.†† The team spirit among the players was outstanding, led by Steven Pressley who played his finest game for Hearts ever (and thatís saying something): his captaincy and defensive performance arenít interfering with each other now heís back to full fitness.†† Andy Webster, the week after his on-field disaster but off-field PR triumph, continued on his path to the Scotland captaincy (Iím serious, Iím convinced of it) with his first goal for the club.Watching him mature on the learning curve (and watching him watching Pressley next to him) gives one real hope.††† Craig Levein may still have a 4-4-2 in mind if he buys the players he wants, but I canít see why these two and McKenna (who was very strong throughout) canít continue this way.††† They donít seem to be getting in each otherís way.†† Maybury and Mahe are full-backs all right and their first duty is to the defence, but they have the ability and the willingness to come forward.††† Gronlund has started to find his feet, and he put in a power of good defensive work in midfield.†††† So Hearts are generally not leaking goals (as the goal difference will tell you) and thatís always a good sign.†† The habit of losing games has been broken, and not before time.†††

 

The downside of this solidity is that thereís very little in the way of attacking from the midfield, and Ricardo Fuller can look very isolated.†† He proved that in itself is not a problem as he skipped past three challenges to set up Walesís last-minute chance, but both on and off the park he needs support: heís a very raw talent, and the magnificent Hearts fans recognised this.†† Letís hope the home fans give it up for him equally, instead of the usual tut-tutting to come from the Centre Stand and the wounding criticism from the Wheatfield.††† Stephane Adam wasnít doing much for sure, but he has got a physical presence that neither Wales nor Kirk possesses, and in spite of his size Fuller isnít a bump-and-shove player, so Adamís long-term absence could pose as many problems as much as it solves.††† But Walesís enthusiasm and zip certainly added zest to the final-quarter revival, and the way Hearts controlled the game and used the ball to good, careful, attacking effect having lost the 80th minute equaliser was another sign of a team in good mental form.††

 

For sure, it could still go pear-shaped from here to the seasonís end, but the while the demonstrations after the Livingston game were entirely justified, Craig Levein kept his dignity at being branded a Yes-Man and kept faith with his team.††† It was a calamitous display, but Livingston arenít the side youíd pick to play on a general off-day.††† They have stuffed better sides than us (and Hibs, come to that) and they exploit basic errors with ease.†† Hearts look to have eliminated the basic errors, as well as found a decent structure everyone plays to.†† Livvy will have to work harder to beat us next time, and just maybe they wonít manage to.††† There isnít a team in the bottom nine whom Hearts canít beat:quality is pretty even (ie, crap).†† So all Hearts need to do is enter every game with bullish self-confidence, because even if Hibs continue to slide we are in danger of reversing the scenario of a few years back when no matter how rubbishy we were Hibs simply couldnít fabricate a win.†† If we go into that game not believing weíre going to win, we wonít.††† Iím still a bit concerned that Brebner and OíNeill are better than anything weíve got in the middle of the park, exactly where those games are won and lost, and their goal difference suggests they can put it in the net better than we can Ė up till now, at least.††† But this weekend would be a very good time to get some practice.†††