London Hearts Supporters Club

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[S Lovell 87]
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Dons add to Tynecastle discontent


Lovell 87

WHEN these teams met at this venue last season, the matches were memorable. In one, Aberdeen did something that few teams manage and left Tynecastle with all three points, the second time Hearts emerged victorious in a tense nailbiter which ultimately gave the home team second place and a Champions League qualifying place at the expense of Rangers.

But those were different days. Thanks to Steve Lovell's 85th minute winner, Aberdeen are currently the country's second-best team, now seven points ahead of yesterday's hosts. This was the first in a run of games which give them an enviable cushion should the continue grinding out the results.

Next week, it's Rangers, with manager Jimmy Calderwood conceding that a match which is always pretty huge would now take on even greater proportions. The Ibrox club now need to beat Celtic today to move back on level pegging with Aberdeen. "In the past we have had a couple of chances to go second and we kept blowing it," said the delighted Aberdeen boss, "so we will enjoy it for as long as we can. Whether than be 24 hours or longer. The last time we were here was that night when they got into Europe and the atmosphere was fantastic but now it's different, you can see how things change at a football club."

The Hearts programme notes did all they could to hark back to that night and remind fans that times have not always been this bad but, with Steven Pressley away and the makeshift centre-back pairing of Ibrahim Tall and Jose Goncalves doing little to convince fans of the shrewdness of that manoeuvre, it would take more than maroon-tinted memories to soothe the current aches.

The cause may have been aided had Marius Zaliukas retained his place at the heart of the defence where he has looked fairly impressive in the past couple of games, but, with Julien Brellier out and Paul Hartley still persona non grata and warming the bench, he was deployed in central midfield where he just doesn't look comfortable.

If the Lithuanian was uneasy with that, the fans were even more so. When Hartley eventually entered the fray in the 64th minute the standing ovation afforded the Scotland international will have let the powers that be know that they are still firmly behind the midfielder. As Pressley can testify that ultimately could mean nothing.

The introduction of the 30-year-old was a timely jump start to proceedings and he gave the Hearts attack more impetus.

The haphazard home defending meant that Aberdeenshould have tied up all three points earlier than they did, but even when both Darren Mackie and Lee Miller failed to capitalise on the shaky clearances and slack marking, Hearts almost conspired to score for them.

In the first half a Bruno Aguiar clearance off the line from a Russell Anderson shot skelped Andrius Velicka and rebounded narrowly over the bar. If that would have been calamitous, Tall's contender for near miss was comical. With 77 minutes gone, the defender was facing his own goal and, under very little pressure, bulleted a header which only just missed

But if Hearts were woeful defensively, the opposition have few woes in that department. Scotland manager Walter Smith watched from the directors' box and one can only surmise he was running the rule over the Aberdeen players as Hearts' contingent of homegrown starters is becoming increasingly depleted. "You're not Scottish anymore" sang the away fans. It may not have been as cutting as "You're going down in a Russian submarine" but there was still little retort.

But the likes of Russell Anderson and Scott Severin did their claim for further international consideration no harm, while Hartley will also have boosted his chances with a performance full of drive when he did come on.

He created more in the short time he was on the park than the entire 22 men who started the match could muster in the opening 30 minutes.

A dowdy yet dogged start, there was no cutting edge. Edgaras Jankauskas and Velicka came close to combining for the opener but as the ball flashed across the goal, the latter couldn't connect. If Aguiar had to clear off the line from Anderson in the 28th minute, Chris Clark had to do likewise at the other end, this time denying Velicka, who was trying to convert an Aguiar corner.

Miller came close to lobbing new club captain Craig Gordon in the 43rd minute as the game sparked into a bit more life. But the effort was just wide.

But it seemed Hartley might break the deadlock in 69 minutes. He did beat Jamie Langfield to the ball to score but, such is the way of things at the club just now, it was chalked off, the linesman's flag long since up.

Five minutes before Lovell scored, Velicka could have given the home side the advantage but he skewed it wide of target. It was one to rue as a quick throw in found Jamie Smith and he played in Severin. Gordon managed to get one hand to the 18-yard drive but first to react was Lovell.

Aberdeen may have failed to score in an astonishing eight of the previous nine games at the Gorgie ground but as the fans travelled back home, their team second top of the league, they will consider some things worth waiting for.

Scott Severin. In the absence of Paul Hartley, the Aberdeen midfielder was able to run the show and will have done his chances of another Scotland call-up no harm, with Walter Smith looking on.

True to their word, the home club ensured the 'Hearts Legend' banner bearing the image of Steven Pressley was back in place after fans complained last week.

Taken from the Scotsman

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