London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Hearts apologise for Tynecastle's unruly scenes

By Roddy Forsyth

George Foulkes, the Heart of Midlothian chairman, yesterday issued an unconditional apology for incidents that marred the end of the Edinburgh side's controversial defeat by Rangers at Tynecastle on Wednesday.

Foulkes' statement came in response to incidents involving Hearts fans as well as the club's young Lithuanian international midfield player, Saulis Mikoliunas, which erupted when, with the score at 1-1, Rangers were awarded a penalty for an infringement flagged by assistant referee Andy Davis.

As the match official, Hugh Dallas, consulted Davis at the corner flag – and then awarded the penalty – coins and other missiles were thrown by nearby spectators. Mikoliunas then ran to Davis and barged him with his chest, provoking Dallas – who meanwhile had been dismissing Rangers' Dado Pros for wrestling the Hearts goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, to the ground – into sending him off, too.

When the red mists cleared, Fernando Ricksen converted the penalty to leave Hearts seething, although the Tynecastle manager, John Robertson – who has been in trouble with the Scottish Football Association for remarks already this season – said only that he appeared to have witnessed "a perfect penalty". The SFA had not received the referee's report yesterday and could not confirm that Mikoliunas had been red carded twice, but it is understood that Dallas took further action when the player swore at him in the tunnel afterwards.

All of which prompted Foulkes into yesterday's statement: "On behalf of the club I, as chairman, want to apologise sincerely and unconditionally to the officials at last night's match for any incident which may have caused them alarm or distress.

"While I understand the fans' frustrations at what appeared to be an unfair decision, there is never any excuse for threats or intimidation or any intimidation or action which could cause danger."

As for Mikoliunas, Foulkes said: "He 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. However, his actions and the manner of his approach to Mr Davis – whilst totally out of character – were also totally unacceptable to the club."

Whilst Foulkes' apology was both proper and timely and may help mitigate any sanction by the SFA – who yesterday appointed the former Scottish Rugby Union chief executive, Phil Anderton, to the same position at Tynecastle – there remains a residue of deep-seated resentment amongst fans, players and management about the manner of the team's defeat. It will hardly assuage their sense of grievance that not only did the Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, state that the penalty award was 'soft'.

The incident also prompted powerful emotions amongst Celtic fans attending their team's 3-0 victory over Dundee.

In the rare context of the two Old Firm sides playing simultaneously, many of the spectators at Celtic Park were able to see the action from Tynecastle unfolding on the TV screens in the corporate boxes. Ricksen's successful effort from the spot punctured the belief that Celtic had taken control of the title race once more by reducing Rangers' lead to four points, with two games in hand.

When Mark Burchill levelled for Hearts, three minutes from the end of both games, Celtic's players certainly knew about it because of the mighty roar.

"When we heard the noise we knew the fans had heard good news from the other game," said Stilian Petrov. "Then we went into the dressing room and found out the result.

"When we were seven points ahead of Rangers the fans said it was not an interesting championship – well, it's interesting now."

Taken from

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