London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Hugh Dallas
Mikoliunas Saulius [I Novo 49] ;[F Ricksen pen 94] Dado Prso
17 of 048 Mark Burchill 87 L SPL H

Hearts' plea for leniency


HEARTS issued an apology yesterday for the incidents at the end of their Wednesday-night match against Rangers, when objects were thrown on to the pitch and Saulius Mikoliunas was sent off following physical contact with assistant referee Andy Davis. They also, however, issued a plea of mitigation on behalf of the 20-year-old Lithuanian, citing his previous good record and the fraught circumstances at the end of the 2-1 league defeat.

The hangover from the match, which Rangers won with a penalty given on the advice of Davis, cast a shadow over what should have been a good-news day for Hearts with the long-awaited appointment of Phil Anderton as the club’s chief executive. After hailing Anderton as "another great signing", club chairman George Foulkes spoke at length in defence of Mikoliunas, who could face a lengthy ban if the authorities refuse to listen to Hearts’ plea for clemency.

"The board of Heart of Midlothian Football Club have written to the Scottish Premierleague, referee Hugh Dallas and his assistant Andy Davis to apologise for the incidents that marred the conclusion of the SPL fixture with Rangers at Tynecastle," the statement from Hearts read.

"Club officials will also investigate the circumstances that led to items being thrown on the pitch and player Saulius Mikoliunas being sent off for the first time in his professional career."

Foulkes added that Mikoliunas, who is said to have only picked up two yellow cards in his senior career prior to arriving in Scotland at the start of this year, had not intended to make physical contact with Davis. He had run towards the linesman, and that was wrong, but it was his momentum which caused the minor collision.

"Mikoliunas is an exceptional young man who is making his way in a new career in a new country and he has made a terrific impact on the footballing staff at the club," Foulkes said. "However, his actions and the manner of his approach to Mr Davis - whilst totally out of character - were also totally unacceptable to the club.

"The club believes that whilst there was intent on behalf of the player to confront Mr Davis, he allowed himself to be caught up in the emotion of the occasion and his momentum caused him to make contact with the official.

"What he did was inexcusable, [but] I hope the SFA will take account of the circumstances. He is a young, enthusiastic player who has become very popular with the fans."

Mikoliunas will be disciplined by the club, who will not disclose the nature of any punishment. He left the ground in tears, apparently distraught by what he had done.

Objects were thrown on to the pitch at the end of the game, and TV pictures appeared to show Hearts player Paul Hartley being struck by an object thrown from the away end. Foulkes, however, said he was unaware of any object having hit players or officials, and added that club staff would review evidence of the incidents on and off the field and would take appropriate action.

He also warned, though, that the very thing which makes for a special atmosphere at Tynecastle - the proximity of the crowd to the action - was what made the ground more susceptible to such incidents of crowd unrest. "One of the reasons there is such a great atmosphere here is that the supporters are so close to the players and officials. But the supporters must not exploit that by throwing things, otherwise you’ll get people calling for the reintroduction of barriers and so on."

Measuring his words carefully, Foulkes described the penalty award as "apparently unfair", and said that no-one other than the officials in question had thought it a penalty. "In the boardroom afterwards the Rangers directors seemed embarrassed by their luck," he said.

Taken from the Scotsman

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