A nice little earner, what a shame about the game
28 Jul 1997
If results like this can be repeated when the season proper starts we might be in for a more exciting league championship than we thought.
But then again, if matches turn out to be as ''exciting'' as this one, there will be few of us watching.
Hearts beat Rangers 3-2 at Tynecastle on Saturday in a match which was a benefit for Dave MacPherson, who has had two spells at each club.
Despite the number of goals scored, the match was of little benefit in terms of entertainment to the 9000 supporters who turned out, and told us little of what might happen when the teams meet again a week tonight at Ibrox in their first premier division fixture of the season.
Rangers again fielded something of a reserve side, dropping nine of the players who had played in Europe last week, while Hearts manager Jim Jefferies stuck to his plan of not revealing his plans.
This was partly enforced by injuries to players such as Gary Locke and Gary Naysmith, but also by choice, through keeping his new players Thomas Flogel and Stefan Adam on the bench for most of the match.
The highlight for Hearts was a hat trick by Jim Hamilton.
He looked physically much sharper than he was last season and his role has changed.
Instead of playing as a target for crosses, Hamilton hovered on the line of off side and as a result scored three good ''poacher's'' goals.
''Jim has worked hard in pre-season training.
He is not the quickest of players but today he showed that if you can play the ball into him in the penalty box he can score goals,'' said Jefferies.
''He has already scored two goals at Berwick and one at Hull pre-season.'' If this phoney war could point out anything which Rangers might worry about it would be their defence.
Manager Walter Smith has been experimenting with a flat back four instead of three centre backs, and Saturday was the second occasion when they have lost three goals in a friendly.
While neither the pairing of Sergio Porrini and Tony Vidmar in the heart of defence, nor later Porrini and Gary Bollan, is likely to be his first choice in competitive matches this season, the lack of familiarity with the new system must be a concern.
In the middle of the field he has no such worries, however.
Paul Gascoigne played for the first 45 minutes and did enough to suggest that his confidence and cheek are back, and he seems to have lost one of his bellies.
He scored a magical goal after just five minutes.
He received a pass halfway inside the Hearts half of the field and stood arrogantly over the ball appealing for his team-mates to make a run for him.
When none of them obliged well enough for Gascoigne, he went on a run himself.
He was finally stopped having beaten two players, but he hit an arrogant chip from 15 yards into the corner of the net.
Sadly, that goal was all of the game which Dave MacPherson saw from the field.
He had to retire from his own match with a knee injury before it was re-started.
As a spectator, he witnessed that Hamilton hat trick, of which the first goal was the best.
Paul Ritchie hit a long, looping pass from halfway which fell perfectly into Hamilton's stride just inside the penalty area for him to strike the ball first-time into the net after 28 minutes.
The others showed his predator's instinct, putting Hearts into the lead after 57 minutes by turning in a low Robertson cross, and then restoring their lead after Rangers had equalised through Staale Stensaas.
That winning goal showed the fragility of the makeshift Rangers defence.
A Stephen Frail cross was allowed to pass through their ranks before reaching Hamilton to touch the ball into the net.
But the goals were highlights punctuating a match which was as dull as it was meaningless.
When the crowd hits a peak of excitement because Scotland's former rugby captain Gavin Hastings comes on as a Hearts substitute, entertainment is rare.
Jefferies did give the home support a glimpse of Flogel and Adam at the end and Flogel made the most of his 17 minutes on the pitch to give you the idea he has pace and can pass a ball.
Rangers' best player probably was 19-year-old Rino Gattuso.
He has the energy of a Stuart McCall and harried the Hearts midfield for most of the match.
''Gattuso did well,'' Rangers' assistant manager Archie Knox said.
''He is an aggressive little lad and once he settles down to one position he will be better.'' But the game had meaning only for MacPherson, who walked away with the gate money.
After thanking the people who paid to watch, he reflected on how things at Ibrox have changed since he started there in 1981, and what that means for this season when the real football starts.
''The changes have been dramatic and things will continue to change,'' MacPherson said.
''They keep on bringing in more quality season after season.
All their players look comfortable on the ball and capable of scoring goals.'' Hearts - McKenzie, Frail, Ritchie, Weir, McPherson, Fulton, Salvatori, Goss, Robertson, Hamilton, Callaghan.
Subs: McManus, Flogel, Hastings, Adam, McCann, Murray, Hogarth.
Rangers - Snelders, Wright, Stensaas, Porrini, Vidmar, Durrant, Miller, Gascoigne, Andersen, Gattuso, Van Vossen.
Subs: Albertz, McCoist, McKnight, Bollan, Boyack, Rae.
Referee - M Clark, Edinburgh.
Taken from the Herald