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<-Page <-Team Tue 02 Jan 2007 Dunfermline Athletic 0 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Colleen Paterson auth-> Craig Thomson
1 of 007 Michal Pospisil 15 L SPL A

Hearts handle the pressure


Dunfermline 0
Hearts 1

VALDAS IVANAUSKAS knows all about pressure. The Hearts coach was forced to take a leave of absence for the sake of his health earlier this season but is back in the dug-out where he belongs.
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And, after seeing his side resist everything Dunfermline could throw at them in the final 20 minutes at East End Park, he's hoping Hearts will be back where they belong over the coming weeks - and competing for second spot.

The Hearts coach conceded that his team had found themselves under the cosh as the game drew to a close, the Pars hoping to snatch an equalising goal as time ticked away.

However, having dropped two points against Kilmarnock at the weekend, Ivanauskas was simply delighted to see his side soak up the Fifers' pressure and head back across the Forth Road Bridge with a victory. He said: "Our target was for the three points. We know that we played very well against Killie on Saturday, we created a lot of chances but we didn't score any goals.

"Yesterday we did that, but we still needed to score the second goal because it would have made it much easier for the players.

"It has been a hard week for my players and there was a lot of pressure in the second half from Dunfermline, but I think the better team won."

With Steven Pressley now on Celtic's books and disciplinary meetings with Craig Gordon and Paul Hartley now out of the way, Ivanauskas is hoping that the club can now enjoy a period of stability. And he insisted that the mood in the camp is getting better by the day, adding: "The team spirit is much better and obviously it helps if you have positive results, it helps confidence come back and we are in a good situation now.

"I think that the results and the performances are the important things and how the players are feeling also.

"I said when we lost the game against Aberdeen that we played well even though we did not get the right result and I think that the spirit has been good too. We won against Dunfermline so that is even better.

"Stability is good, we played a similar team to the game against Killie but we also have a lot of injured players so I hope that some of them will come back in time for the Celtic game."

Calum Elliot was back in the starting line-up for the first time since Hearts' 2-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox back in August and he's hoping his loan spell at Motherwell can see him establish himself as a first-team regular at Tynecastle for the rest of the season.

He admitted that, while he enjoyed his spell at Fir Park, his heart had always remained at Tynecastle and said: "It wasn't that I didn't enjoy playing for Motherwell, maybe just that my heart is in it with this club.

"It's a relief to be back at Hearts, I was training with Motherwell on Monday so it was a bit of a surprise to be back in the starting line-up, but it was a nice surprise.

"Hopefully I did enough to stay in the side. It would have been good to get a goal but the main thing was to get the three points."

Pars boss Stephen Kenny faces an uphill struggle to keep his side in the top flight after a string of poor results which saw them go into this particular contest nine points adrift at the foot of the table - and that's where they remained.

However, the home side were unlucky not to gain an early advantage when a headed clearance from Marius Zaliukas fell straight to Sol Bamba and he let fly from 22 yards. It looked a certain goal, but he hadn't counted on Scotland keeper Craig Gordon, who did well to dive down to his right to push the effort round the post.

Michal Pospisil looked lively from the word go and, when he drove down the left to send the ball into the box for Andrew Driver, the Pars had to rely on Phil McGuire to divert it over the bar. That only delayed Hearts' opener by a couple of seconds, though, as Bruno Aguiar trotted out to the left flag to take the resultant corner and when he whipped it into the danger zone once again it was Pospisil who made the most of a fresh-air swipe from Darren Young to force the ball over the line at the back post.

In truth, Hearts should have gone on to make their lead more comfortable before the half-time whistle, Zaliukas seeing his header cleared off the line from an Aguiar corner and Paul Hartley racing free of the Pars defence after an inch-perfect pass from Saulius Mikoliunas only to see keeper Roddy McKenzie block the shot with his legs.

Their failure to capitalise on that first-half pressure seemed to breathe life back into Dunfermline, as did the double substitution they made, bringing Jim Hamilton and Owen Morrison on at the break for Greg Shields and Gary Mason.

The new pair almost carved out a leveller between them when the latter raced through on goal and sent the ball across the face of goal for his team-mate, who connected but only well enough to send it trickling just past Gordon's right-hand post, the far-side linesman ruling the chance out for offside in any case.

A brilliant pass from Nerijus Barasa - on to replace Mikoliunas - could have seen Hearts double their advantage when Hartley raced on to meet it but he appeared to be impeded by Pars defender Darren Young as he prepared to pull the trigger although referee Craig Thomson didn't agree and waved away the claims for a spot kick.

Elliot then wasted a chance to score on his first game back, firing well over the bar despite doing all the hard work by beating both Wilson and Scott Morrison at the by-line.

He came even closer right at the death when Hartley teed him up but his blistering shot was well saved by McKenzie.

Dunfermline boss Kenny felt this side had deserved to take something from the match and said: "I don't think that a draw would have flattered us, there wasn't much between the teams in the first half, but it was criminal defending from us for Hearts' goal from the set-piece.

"We were more direct in the second half and that seemed to cause Hearts a few more problems but I am a bit frustrated that we just can't seem to score, as we've seen in the last few games."

Taken from the Scotsman

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