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Tommy McLean <-auth None auth-> MF Pocock
[S Maskrey 5] ;[T Brown 18]
1 of 001 John Millar 29 ;Gary Mackay 31 L Premier H

Levein is proud of makeshift defenders

13 Feb 1995

Hearts 2, Kilmarnock 2

HEARTS skipper Craig Levein gathered all the experience on the Tynecastle's staff around him, to salvage a vital point from Kilmarnock at rain-soaked Tynecastle.

The Scotland defender watched his team go two goals behind inside 18 minutes and then saw defender Dave McPherson and Neil Berry limp out of the 2-2 draw.

The result was that goalscorers John Millar and Gary Mackay played out most of the second half filling in at centre half and left back.

And it was the seasoned campaigners like Levein, that summoned up all their wisdom to avoid what would have been a damaging defeat.

"When you consider that John is very much a forward going midfield player and ended up at centre back, it indicated how stretched we were," reflected Levein.

"And Gary came on from the bench to do a fine job in midfield, before he was asked to fulfill a makeshift task at left back.

"It was bad enough to lose an influential player like Dave early on, but to see Neil go out of the match as well became critical.

"It's great credit to the players that they were able to adjust to two complete reorganisations and still take something from the game."

It seemed as though Hearts were heading for the relegation area again, from the tightly packed mid-table area, as Killie raced to a two-goal lead after 18 minutes.

Goalkeeper Craig Nelson looked less than confident as Steve Maskrey drove in a rebound from the keeper in five minutes and Tom Brown's head glance somehow squirmed in 13 minutes later.

But the resilience that Levein inspired pulled Tommy McLean's side back from the brink with two goals inside as many minutes to ensure an enthralling afternoon's sport.

Stephen Frail's free kick in the 29th minute offered Millar space to beat Drago Lekovic with his fierce header and two minutes later Mackay ended a flowing Jim Bett-Kevin Thomas move with a sweetly struck 16 yard shot.

Nelson made amends for his earlier uncertainty when diving to his right to push a Tom Black penalty onto the post with 19 minutes remaining.

The direct Ally Mitchell had earned the award by forcing Millar into a body check, and Nelson's save meant Black was missing on his second penalty in eight years.

"We could have won the game in the end but, in fairness to Kilmarnock, they had their opportunities late in the match as well," admitted Levein.

"The great thing was that on a dreadful afternoon to be out, it was a smashing game for the supporters, with both teams still trying to win it right up to the death."

Alex Totten has his players happy to attack both at home and away from Rugby Park, and consequently they are fast shedding their label as relegation candidates.

"It was a great start to the match for us, but we couldn't get the third goal when we were two ahead.

That would have finished things off," sighed Totten.

McPherson required three stitches in a shin injury and will not face a lengthy absence, but Berry's pain in his side is less clear-cut.

Amid fears that he had suffered a collapsed lung, the former Bolton player went for X-rays yesterday and will know the results today, with the hope that it's simply a muscle strain.

Taken from the Herald

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