London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 27 Dec 2003 Hearts 0 Motherwell 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> John Rowbotham
7 of 007 ----- L SPL H

Bore draw does little to warm Tynecastle hearts

Paul Kiddie

Hearts 0
Motherwell 0

SUFFERING through yet another festive rerun of ‘The Sound of Music’, battling the hordes of bargain hunters on Princes Street or even watching the neighbour’s recently-painted fence dry would arguably have been preferable to the 90 minutes which Hearts and Motherwell served up at Tynecastle.

The game, broadcast live across the nation by BBC Scotland, was truly dreadful and must be one of the worst seen in Gorgie for some time.

At least the television viewers had the benefit of being able to switch off their screens. But for the 10,046 fans who had dug deep to spend more of their hard-earned cash at a traditionally difficult time for bank accounts, it was a case of putting up with what they were having to watch, no doubt in the hope that things had to improve.

And while the second half was marginally better than a dire opening 45 minutes, there was little to set the pulses racing on an ice-cold afternoon in the Capital.

There had been talk before the visit to Tynecastle of Terry Butcher’s side that Hearts fans may use the game to protest against the proposed imminent sale of the stadium.

Chief executive Chris Robinson had been pinpointed as public enemy No.1 by the Gorgie faithful after plans to uproot the club from its famous home were announced and supporters were said to be considering making their point in front of the cameras.

And while there were sporadic chants by small sections of the anti-Robinson brigade, in general fans seemed to pay heed to boss Craig Levein’s plea not to bring their protests inside the ground. Yes, there were frequent jeers and roars of derision from the stands - but the chorus of discontent which rang round Tynecastle was purely as a result of the dismal fare which the teams served up.

Unfortunately, this was the SPL at its worst, with little goalmouth action to excite the fans and creative football practically non-existent.

It was therefore hardly surprising that the match ended in stalemate, the Jambos dropping two important points at home against a team they were expected to beat.

If there was any consolation for Levein, it came at Firhill on Saturday where bottom dogs Partick Thistle stunned fellow-Euro hopefuls Dunfermline 4-1, the result leaving Hearts one point ahead of the Pars in sole possession of third place going into the new year, a scenario the Gorgie boss would have settled for at the start of the season.

"I thought we defended okay against Motherwell and didn’t look like losing a goal," said Levein.

"But it wasn’t a great game, in fact it was particularly poor and should have been shown after the watershed!

"It is not something we can be accused of very often and it maybe happens once or twice a year where a team underperforms. Not from the point of view of our workrate or defending, all that was spot-on. But the creativity was almost non-existent.

"We got into good areas but the final shot and final header was poor, we hardly hit the target and hardly missed the first man with our crosses.

"We didn’t thread people through with the right weight of pass and when all that happens the goalmouth chances are few and far between.

"But credit to Motherwell they came here and made it difficult for us and of the two managers I would imagine Terry was the happier."

Of that there was no question, the ’Well boss having gone into the game on the back of four straight defeats.

"I think that is the first 0-0 draw since I came to the club," said the former England skipper, "and we’re delighted with the point.

"We frustrated Hearts and that’s what we tried to do.

"It was not good entertainment to watch but it was certainly a good point for us."

With Mark de Vries again starting on the bench as he tries to recover fully from a hamstring problem, Kevin McKenna partnered Andy Kirk up front.

The pair have worked well together in previous games but found it difficult to make an impression on Saturday, with the team as a whole guilty of far too many misplaced passes.

The Northern Ireland striker came close to putting his side ahead after just ten minutes, the front man doing well to create the shooting chance for himself but Gordon Marshall leapt to his right to turn his effort behind.

Those of us who thought that would be just the start of the excitement were sadly mistaken as the game failed to get out of first gear. Kirk’s early enterprise was the sole talking point from the first half, although he did latch onto a McKenna flick-on five minutes from the interval but didn’t get enough on his header to unduly trouble Marshall.

At least the goals were threatened after the break, Robert Sloan firing over two minutes after the restart and then Keith Lasley blasting wildly past from a good position at the back post 60 seconds later.

Patrick Kisnorbo should have done better just after the hour mark when he rose to meet Sloan’s corner but failed to direct his header on target and De Vries, who had replaced McKenna in the 61st minute, was similarly at fault from Jean-Louis Valois’ corner 13 minutes from time.

The Frenchman had replaced the injured Paul Hartley at the interval and while he failed to provide the necessary guile and creativity the hosts were looking for, he did have Hearts best chance in the closing minutes after ghosting his way into the left-hand side of the Well box, his shot across Marshall going agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.

It was an instantly forgettable game and two incidents in the closing stages summed-up the day.

Firstly Sloan over-hit a free-kick into the Motherwell area allowing Marshall to gather easily and then Valois stepped up to take a last-minute free-kick 20 yards out but only succeeded in cracking it into the wall.

Referee John Rowbotham supplied one of the game’s highlights when he blew for full time, the final whistle eventually putting everyone out of their misery.

Levein said he detected an uneasiness inside the ground as a result of the match being played against the backdrop of the much-talked about sale of Tynecastle and relocating to Murrayfield.

But he refused to blame outside influences for the desperate offering served up for the fans.

"It is a difficult time for everyone at the club and there is a monumental decision to made and these sorts of things are hard to ignore," he said.

"But I don’t think the stadium decision had a huge bearing on our display.

"We just didn’t do enough to give our supporters a real lift. It is hard for me to be over-critical, though, as normally we are an entertaining team to watch. On Saturday we just weren’t."

Taken from the Scotsman

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