London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2004-05--> All for 20041226
<-Page <-Team Sun 26 Dec 2004 Hearts 0 Celtic 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Mike McCurry
[A McGeady 9] ;[S Petrov 68]
10 of 010 ----- L SPL H

O'Neill says opposition fans ought to applaud McGeady


AFTER taking an early lead through Aiden McGeady at Tynecastle, Celtic had squandered a handful of gilt-edged chances, with John Hartson being particularly profligate, by the time Stilian Petrov wrapped up the points in the 68th minute. On another day Martin O’Neill might have had occasion to bemoan such sloppy finishing, but yesterday he was happy to reflect on the number of chances created rather than their being squandered.

"We were terrific," the Celtic manager said of the 2-0 win over Hearts. "I thought we could have scored a few more goals, and that’s not something you can often say at Tynecastle.

"We looked capable of getting goals today, but having said that, although Hearts were not at their best I always thought they were dangerous."

McGeady was closely marked after he had ghosted in at the back post to open the scoring, with two Hearts players on top of him the instant he received possession. He is also receiving more hostile attention from opposition supporters, and O’Neill suggested, somewhat implausibly, that fans should applaud the player’s talents rather than abuse him.

"I’m quite sure that when he set out in the game the last thing he was thinking about was going to away grounds and finding himself being booed," O’Neill said. "I assume he is booed because as a Scotsman he has chosen to play for the Republic of Ireland. For all that trickery you think he might occasionally be applauded."

McGeady himself said he would have to learn to put up with being targeted by opposing fans, and suggested it might be best to regard it as a backhanded compliment. "I’ll have to get used to the verbal abuse. I’m sure it’s down to the country I chose. I suppose it’s flattery."

McGeady described the contest as "a tough game physically", which it certainly was. In the context of recent Hearts-Celtic games, however, it was a relatively polite affair, which was well handled by referee Mike McCurry.

The most contentious moment from Hearts’ point of view came when Mark de Vries was booked for diving, rather than being awarded a penalty, in the second half. "We’ve seen the incident on television and there’s definitely contact," claimed the Hearts coach, John Robertson. "It clearly shows Mark was tripped."

Having criticised referees in several recent matches, however, Robertson said that in general he had been impressed by McCurry’s performance. "I thought he refereed the situations at both ends of the park very well," the coach said, referring to the constant jockeying between Hartson, Chris Sutton, Steven Pressley and Kevin McKenna at one end, and De Vries’s contest with Bobo Balde and Stan Varga at the other.

"It was a good competitive game," Robertson went on. "Celtic’s quality shone through, especially the front two.

"To beat the Old Firm you need to be at your best and them to be below their best - you need a few breaks and we didn’t get them. I can’t fault my players’ effort and commitment. We more than competed, but we now have to work on our final product."

Without the suspended Andy Webster and Patrick Kisnorbo, Hearts were further disrupted by an early groin injury to Michael Stewart, who was replaced by Neil MacFarlane. Robertson later threw on Joe Hamill for Dennis Wyness, then finally Graeme Weir for Jamie McAllister, but it was one of those days when Hearts were never going to get anything out of Celtic.

"We possibly didn’t deserve to get a result today," Pressley, the home captain, conceded. "We worked hard, but didn’t show a lot of quality."

Since the start of the season Hearts have only rarely shown the quality of which they are capable, with injuries to key forwards proving a drawback earlier on. Now, though, the air of uncertainty surrounding the club may be beginning to have an effect, with so many players out of contract in the summer. Pressley insisted he was doing his best to counteract that uncertainty.

"Players must remember that they’re being paid to try and get results. It’s a difficult situation, but we’ve got a good spirit in the dressing-room and we’ve got to bounce back. It’s vital we keep players’ minds focused on the job in hand."

Taken from the Scotsman

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