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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth None auth-> Douglas McDonald
Webster Andy McCann Austin [G McSwegan 31]
2 of 005 ----- L SPL A

Jefferies' side no bleeding Hearts

KILMARNOCK 1 McSwegan 29

DOES Gary McSwegan bear a barrel of grudges against the city of Edinburgh? The Kilmarnock striker helped himself to a hat-trick in his side’s last home win, the 6-2 thrashing of Hibernian. This time his solitary first-half header against his former club Hearts was sufficient to cut the deficit between third and fourth place in the Premierleague to four points. Game, set and match then to Kilmarnock but the advantage, in terms of UEFA Cup football next season, remains with Hearts.

They will have to slip up further for Kilmarnock to seize the European berth and Jim Jefferies’ men still have Rangers and Celtic to face. Still, for Jefferies, this, his first win as Kilmarnock manager over Hearts, was an accomplished act.

Only the Old Firm and indeed Hearts have had the better of Kilmarnock on their own turf this season, Hearts winning here by 1-0 back in November. Indeed Hearts had taken seven of nine points from Kilmarnock this term, the latest result a 3-0 win at Tynecastle in February.

Kilmarnock were without Gary Locke but yet another former Hearts man, Steve Fulton, was back in the home side, taking his customary, creative central midfield role. With no Mark De Vries for Hearts, manager Craig Levein went for teenager Graham Weir partnering Kevin McKenna in the frontline.

Levein, having signed a new contract that retains him at Tynecastle until 2006 and been named the latest Manager of the Month on Friday, took his Hearts team to Rugby Park in the knowledge that a draw would not damage his side much but victory would clinch them a place in next season’s UEFA Cup.

Fourth place Kilmarnock’s end of the deal was stopping them from achieving this and nipping into contention themselves but they had a seven point deficit to claw back, with this the first of four remaining league games.

Certainly Hearts and Kilmarnock have been the best in Scotland outwith the Old Firm this season and the league table as a whole is a fair reflection of that. What Jefferies has done at Kilmarnock in 14 months is every bit as commendable as what Levein has achieved at Tynecastle.

All the indicators pointed towards a decent game of football although the game’s early spell was fractious and ill-tempered. There was more bombast and bluster than football, the most notable happenings on the park being the accumulation of bookings. Andy McLaren made it first into the book of the referee for a combination of bad mouthing and kicking at an opponent.

He would be joined by his strike partner McSwegan who squared up to Phil Stamp after the Hearts midfielder’s reckless lunge on Garry Hay. Needless to say, Stamp was booked too, though the home fans thirsted after a red.

Hearts were having trouble threatening Gordon Marshall. Kilmarnock fared so little better as the match descended into a scrappy affair of bad passing, close marking and bloodthirsty challenges.

McSwegan freed himself of the Hearts defence at one juncture. Pursued by Andy Webster he burst into the penalty area and thundered a drive that Tepi Moilanen did well to smother past his near post.

When Kilmarnock did eventually take the lead, the goal move was very much an old boys’ act. Fulton pitched a peach of a diagonal ball towards the far corner flag. McLaren collected and got past his man to centre to the back post.

McSwegan outjumped Alan Maybury to direct an angled and slow-motion header spinning over Moilanen and into the bottom corner. The extent of the goal celebration from McSwegan was inevitable. Off he ran to the Kilmarnock bench where he was surrounded by a collection of leaping comrades.

Hearts have had the edge over Kilmarnock in encounters between these two aspirational sides this season but the home side should have made it 2-0 just after the interval when McSwegan teed up McLaren on the edge of the six yard box only for the striker to inexplicably send a weak slice past the upright when it was far easier to net.

McLaren tried to make amends with a long distance poke at goal shortly after but Moilanen was equal to it. Down the other end it was Marshall’s turn to look lively. Steven Boyack, newly on for the ineffective Jean Louis Valois, took a perceptive pass from Fulton to lash in an angled shot, but Marshall saved defiantly with his outstretched legs.

Remarkably Boyack soon had another chance to level and was again denied by Marshall who was starting to play out of his skin. Stamp made the cut back to Boyack whose clipped effort was trundling inside the post until Marshall finger-tipped the ball out of danger. Hearts were undone a little when Webster blatantly bodychecked McSwegan. The defender had a little earlier been cautioned leaving Dougie McDonald no other option than to produce the red card.

As the rain battered down on the pitch, James Fowler sent a left-foot shot fizzing past Moilanen’s post, the ball striking the net support and giving the illusion, for some, that it had crashed into the back of the net. Austin McCann, the man who hit that stupendous winner over Celtic, drove one against the Kilmarnock side-netting as Hearts scrambled around the home penalty box for an equaliser.

But Marshall was looking incredibly firm and not in the mood to let this happen, plucking high balls out of the air.

A game of head tennis ensued in the Kilmarnock box as Stamp struck a blow for glory but Marshall was at it again to snuff out the threat.

McCann was sent off in the dying stages leaving Hearts down to nine men. Thereafter they were down and out in Ayrshire.

Taken from the Scotsman

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