London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2002-03--> All for 20020925
<-Page <-Team Wed 25 Sep 2002 Stirling Albion 2 Hearts 3 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Alan Freeland
[S Mallan 2] ;[S Nicholas 49]
1 of 001 Andy Kirk 11 ;Jean-Louis Valois 38 ;Steven Pressley pen 65 LC A

Pressley to the rescue as Hearts stutter


Stirling Albion 2
Mallan (3), Nicholas (49)
Hearts 3
Kirk (11), Valois (38), Pressley (pen 65)

STEVEN Pressley’s penalty kick midway through the second half steered Hearts into today’s CIS Cup third-round draw after they had flirted outrageously with another humiliating exit from the tournament.

Knocked out at the same stage by Ross County 12 months ago, Hearts last night produced a stuttering performance against even lower grade opponents which suggested their admirable league form thus far this season has been grossly misleading.

Having had to work exceptionally hard to cancel out Stirling Albion’s early opening goal, Hearts were then pegged back by the apparently indefatigable home team in the second half before captain Pressley calmly converted the crucial spot kick.

Given Hearts’ recent history of trauma at the hands of lower division opponents in cup competitions, there was certainly no cause for complacency from the Premierleague’s third-placed club against the side sitting three spots off the bottom of the Third Division.

Craig Levein opted for an unchanged line-up, the men who have impressed in the Gorgie outfit’s fine start to the season, which reflected how seriously he considered the challenge of his former Tynecastle team-mate Allan Moore’s part-timers.

For the sizeable travelling support who filled the East Stand at the exposed and soulless Forthbank, it quickly became apparent that this was another potential embarrassment for their favourites.

Albion’s third-minute opener provided an eyebrow-raising indication of the anxieties the home side would be able to cause the Hearts defence during an intriguing first half.

Stevie Mallan, the 35-year-old veteran front man, was in at the start and finish of a fine move which made a nonsense of Albion’s lowly status. He held the ball up for Paul Hay who spread it wide to Robert Dunn on the right. The former Partick Thistle man’s cross looped over the static Hearts back four to find Mallan rising at the far post to plant a firm header beyond Roddy McKenzie.

Hearts’ efforts to quickly redeem themselves were not assisted by Kevin McKenna nicking the ball off team-mate Mark De Vries’ toes just when the big Dutchman appeared set to convert a Steven Boyack cross but, to the palpable relief of the visitors, they trailed for just eight minutes.

The policy of having Boyack and Jean Louis Valois swap flanks for corner kicks paid off handsomely when the Frenchman’s inswinger from the right was nodded back across goal by De Vries for his strike partner Andy Kirk to head beyond exposed Albion keeper Chris Reid from close range.

Despite the rapid riposte from Hearts, their discomfort continued for lengthy spells thanks to Albion’s eager approach. Mallan and Steven Nicholas were constantly making pests of themselves, the former latching onto a ball over the top of the Hearts defence and outpacing both Pressley and McKenna to burst clear. He slipped a pass inside to Nicholas but Alan Maybury’s covering tackle took the pace off the former Motherwell striker’s shot which was gathered comfortably by McKenzie.

Hearts survived and regrouped, finally producing a piece of superior quality to give themselves a lead seven minutes before half-time.

Albion teenager Paul Nugent was penalised for handball just outside the home penalty area and his error was punished in emphatic fashion by Valois whose gifted left foot curled the free-kick around the wall and beyond the despairing Reid into the roof of the net.

If Hearts believed they had put Stirling’s resistance down with Valois’ sublime strike, they reckoned without the spirit and vibrancy of the home team’s start to the second half which soon had them back on terms.

Mallan had already taken a fresh air swipe in front of an open goal, Fraser Duncan and David O’Brien combining to create the chance, when Hearts imploded in defence to present Albion with the leveller.

Maybury’s negligent passback was seized upon by Nicholas who skipped into the Hearts area, took the ball wide of McKenzie and fired in a low shot from a tight angle which Scott Severin could only help on its way into the net.

The growing concern of the visiting support was eased once again, however, when Hearts restored their lead with a 65th-minute penalty kick. There could be no dispute about the award as central defender Mark McNally hauled De Vries to the turf as the big striker turned away from him in the box.

Pressley, although not enjoying the most convincing of nights, stepped forward and made a consummate job from the spot.

Stirling Albion: Reid, Nugent, Hay, McNally, Rowe, Duncan, Dunn, McKinnon, Mallan, Nicholas, O’Brien. Subs: Davidson, McCole, Moore, McLennan, Turner.

Hearts: McKenzie, Maybury, Pressley, McKenna, McMullan, Boyack, Stamp, Severin, Valois, De Vries, Kirk. Subs: Webster, Wales, Simmons, McCann, Gordon.

Referee: A Freeland. Attendance: 2,791

Taken from the Scotsman

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