Wing work key for Europe
19 Aug 1996
3 Kilmarnock ..
THERE was a time when Hearts going into a home tie in Europe without having the predatory instincts of John Robertson on hand would have been unthinkable.
Judging by Jim Jefferies' team selection on Saturday, however, that time could now be past.
Robertson, Hearts' top scorer in Europe and the subject of an enquiry from rivals Hibs last week, was nowhere to be seen in the 14-man pool, so there must be a question mark over his involvement when Red Star come calling on Cup-winners' Cup duty later this week.
Having dug in to get a no-scoring draw in the first leg in Belgrade, Hearts will now have to go over the top on Thursday in search of the goals which will take them into the next round.
Although Jim Jefferies has long thought that was a job for the more battle-scarred campaigners in his squad, the Hearts manager is likely to hand a key role to raw recruit Neil McCann.
McCann, who missed the first leg because of injury, showed against Alex Totten's side that he might be just the man who can come up with the unexpected.
"This would be my first ever game in Europe at club level, but I played a few times with the Scotland Under-21s and I thought I did quite well," said McCann.
"European sides don't come up against wingers like me very often, so they don't seem to know how to handle us.
"Red Star are a quality side, but before the first leg most people were writing us off.
Naming no names, but I think one radio expert even suggested we'd get `gubbed' over there, which didn't go down well in the dressing room." It was McCann's deadly corner kick which set up David Weir for Hearts' second goal after Paul Ritchie had put them in front, and at that stage it looked so easy for the home side.
A goal from Paul Wright changed all that and it took another strike from young defender Ritchie to ease the rising tension in the Hearts dug-out.
After new boy Darren Beckford had been sent off for his second bookable offence, Jim Lauchlan did pull another back, but it was all too late by then.
"The three goals we lost were dreadful and you'll never win games like that.
"We've scored two away from home but got nothing for it," said Totten.
"I've emphasised to the players that you can't do that.
"If we learn from today, that's fine, but we have to learn quickly." Jefferies, meanwhile, has injury doubts over Davie McPherson, Jeremy Goss, Pasquale Bruno and Neil Pointon for Red Star's visit.
TURNING POINT HEARTS must have thought an afternoon which started so sweetly was about to turn sour after an hour.
Darren Beckford was fouled inside the box, but all they got was a free kick outside.
It eventually led to Paul Ritchie firing the third goal, but if they hadn't got it, who knows what might have happened.
Taken from the Herald