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John Robertson <-auth Neil White auth-> John Underhill
16 of 028 Saulius Mikoliunas 15 ;James Fowler og 25 ;Lee Miller 67 L SPL H

Mikoliunas magic show

Neil White at Tynecastle
OUTSIDE the stadium a father walked his two young boys past a programme stand, the face of Sergejus Fedotovas, Hearts’ new chief executive, staring out from the cover of each magazine. “Will Vladimir Romanov be here today?” one of the boys asked his old man. For once, the talk of the toon was not the boys in maroon, although they recovered at least an equal billing after a match they could have won by five or six.

The pre-match entertainment was provided by Hearts’ major shareholder and his acting chief executive. Team Romanov has delivered on every promise made by the Lithuanian-based banker thus far, justification enough for the tumultuous reception he received when he finally took his bow, striding into the centre circle with Fedotovas and embracing Hearty Harry, the man-filled mascot-suit. The sight of it went part of the way to explaining why businessmen buy into football clubs. Romanov has closed deals that dwarf anything he will put into Hearts, but none of them gave that kind of buzz.

This was about the Lithuanians, though, and not all of the big players were wearing suits. Saulius Mikoliunas has impressed in every game he has played since his debut last month, but this was his finest performance so far.

He opened the scoring after 17 minutes and was a threat every time he ran at Peter Leven, a midfielder out of position at left-back. Paul Hartley slid a quick free kick between Liam Fontaine and Derek Lilley, the central defenders. Mikoliunas had made a diagonal run inside from his right wing position and leaned into Fontaine as they contested the ball. The defender lost balance and Mikoliunas sped in on Alan Combe, dropped him with a feint, moved to his left and angled the ball into the net.

Six minutes later, Mikoliunas attracted Leven and Stephen Murray to him on the right. That left Robbie Nielson free to overlap and Mikoliunas showed he knows when to unload with a simple flick. Nielson’s cross was low and into the danger area. James Fowler, the Kilmarnock right-back, scrambled across the six-yard box to clear but mistimed his swipe, sclaffing the ball high into his own goal with his left boot.

Hearts should have had more before the break. A perfect cross from Mikoliunas into the path of Lee Miller was headed wide, under pressure from Lilley. Miller had no such excuse after 37 minutes when the Lithuanian prodded a cute pass into his feet. He seemed incredulous at the non-appearance of the offside flag and shot weakly at Combe. At the whistle, Nielson charged upfield and put Stephen Simmons in, but the midfielder overran the ball to the left. Dennis Wyness met the loose ball with a first-time shot that crashed off the angle of bar and Combe’s near post. Hearts were rampant.

All of this pressure was pretty much unanswered by Kilmarnock. Steven Naismith shot wide early on and Kris Boyd put a header too close to Craig Gordon from a Murray cross, but neither striker got clear long enough to test the home goalkeeper past that in the first half.

Mikoliunas resumed his one man show after the interval, skinning Leven down the right, cutting inside his marker’s recovery tackle and curling in a left-foot shot that Combe blocked out and up. Wyness was unmarked under it and headed down at the near post, but Combe was up and across to make a great second save, this time with his knees.

Miller had missed two that should not have got away, but more than made amends after 66 minutes. A long ball exposed a two-on-two on the edge of the Kilmarnock box. Wyness won the knockdown and Miller, on the corner of the box and with the ball bouncing at chest height, unleashed a volley that hit the underside of the bar and bounced into the roof of the net.

Gordon made his key contribution shortly afterwards, an excellent stop low and to his left after Garry Hay had driven at goal from 20 yards, but it was soon back down the other end. Miller slid onto a low cross from Mark Burchill but could not keep it down. Mikoliunas took a sweeping crossfield ball from Hartley and ran inside two defenders before firing narrowly past the far post. It could have been much, much worse for Kilmarnock. The question for Hearts is, how much better than this is it going to get?

STAR MAN: Saulius Mikoliunas (Hearts)

Player ratings: Hearts: Gordon 6, Nielson 7, Pressley 6, Berra 6, Wallace 6, Mikoliunas 9, Simmons 6 (Kizys 74min, 6), Hartley 8, McAllister 6, Miller 7 (Thorarinsson 80min, 6), Wyness 6 (Burchill 68min, 6)

Kilmarnock: Combe 7, Fowler 5 (Wales 56min, 5), Fontaine 6 (Dindeleux 27min, 6), Lilley 5, Leven 5, Johnston 7, McDonald 5, Locke 6, Murray 6 (Hay 51min, 7), Boyd 5, Naismith 5

Booked: Naismith 78

Referee: J Underhill

Attendance: 9,220

Taken from

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