London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Wed 13 Apr 2005 Hearts 1 Hibernian 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> John Rowbotham
[G O'Connor 68] ;[D Shiels 73]
11 of 018 Lee Miller 39 L SPL H

Hearts must think the unthinkable

At Tynecastle

IT was do or die for Hearts in their race for Europe. They didn’t - and now require the kiss of life if they are to cling on to any hope of UEFA Cup qualification.

Ahead of last night’s eagerly anticipated derby showdown at Tynecastle, Jambos boss John Robertson had admitted it was a game his side could not afford to lose.

Five points behind the third-placed Easter Road outfit at kick-off time, the Hearts chief knew that, with games running out, victory was essential to his ambitions of retaining the SPL’s "best of the rest" crown for a third season in a row.

While a draw would not have been a disaster, defeat was unthinkable. But that is something the players are having to come to terms with today after their 2-1 loss.

Steven Pressley & Co. now head to Tannadice for a meeting with a resurgent Dundee United, still no doubt basking in their surprise 1-0 victory at Ibrox on Tuesday night, with Hearts languishing eight points behind third place.

With Hibs’ surprising Scottish Cup semi-final exit at the hands of the Tangerines ironically having made it more difficult for their Captial rivals to qualify for Europe - United’s progress to the final to meet Celtic means fourth spot in the SPL is no longer a viable route - the enormity of the task facing the Maroons is evident for all to see.

"It was a sore one to take and I have got to be honest and say it is now a massive ask to qualify for Europe," conceded Robertson.

"But there are a lot of big games coming up and we have got to keep going."

The Jambos had welcomed Tony Mowbray’s side to their Gorgie home in the knowledge they hadn’t tasted defeat in such a fixture for more than five years.

It December 1999 the last time the green-and-white half of Edinburgh had been able to revel in the glory of a win in their arch rivals’ back yard.

For 45 minutes last night, it appeared as if that record was safe for the foreseeable future, Hearts firmly in the driving seat for maximum points having been the gifted the lead six minutes from the interval courtesy of a calamitous error from goalkeeper Simon Brown.

The Englishman could not believe his eyes as a header from the in-form Lee Miller found its way into the back of the net, the Hibs star having inexplicably opted to let the ball run out for a goal kick.

It was no more than the home side deserved at that stage, Hearts having dominated the opening period and well worth the single-goal advantage.

With Miller almost unbeatable in the air and the tricky David Cesnauskis looking in the mood, the Jambos front line were causing their opponents all sorts of problems in the final third of the park.

Mark Burchill should have done better in the 22nd minute when a cross from the Lithuanian picked him out in good position in the box, the former Celtic star unable to connect properly with his volley.

Three minutes later Gary Caldwell headed narrowly wide of his own goal from another dangerous Cesnauskis delivery and from the resultant Jamie McAllister corner Antonio Murray was in the right place at the right time to clear Miller’s header off the line. In the scramble which followed, home skipper Pressley smashed the loose ball inches off target.

With the visitors rarely seen as an attacking threat in the opening 45 minutes, Miller’s opener appeared just the platform the hosts required to go on and complete a significant triumph.

As the sell-out crowd digested the frantic first period they had just witnessed, it would have been a brave man to have put money on the Hibees emerging from the encounter with anything more than long faces.

Talk about a game of two halves, though.

It may be the oldest cliché in the book but it summed-up the events at Tynecastle perfectly.

With loan star Miller not enjoying anywhere near the same degree of success after the break, Cesnauskis strangely ineffective on the flanks and the Hearts defence uncharacteristically unstable, the tables were soon turned on Robertson’s men.

Craig Gordon did superbly to keep out a powerful strike from Ian Murray after 52 minutes, although the Hibs skipper, already on a caution, was fortunate not to see red after a late lunge on Pressley five minutes later.

Referee John Rowbotham was in fact in lenient mood, the whistler having allowing McAllister to escape without further punishent moments previously after a rash challenge on Caldwell.

"I think a lot of people will say that Ian Murray was quite fortunate but that’s the way football goes," said Robertson.

One of the main turning points of the game came in the 61st minute when Mowbray realised the precarious position of his skipper and Derek Riordan, who had also been booked in the first half. The Hibs boss withdrew the pair before they found themselves in further trouble, Kevin Thomson and Amadou Konte stepping into the fray.

Brown made up for his aberration in the 63rd minute when he pulled off a great stop from Paul Hartley’s thunderbolt but, five minutes later, the influential midfielder limped off injured. And before he had time to warm his backside on the bench, the match was level.

A through ball from Konte caught out a hesitant Hearts defence. And as teenage right-back Jason Thomson and keeper Gordon got their wires crossed, the young defender mis-hit a clearance off Dean Shiels into the path of Garry O’Connor, who gleefully stroked the ball home.

Five minutes later - that is all it took for Hearts’ Euro hopes to implode - Hibs were in front. The home rearguard was again posted missing as Konte sent a header off Gordon’s right-hand post and with the defenders failing to react swiftly enough, Shiels blasted an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.

It was a hammer blow for the hosts, who never looked like staging the kind of miraculous recovery so often seen in recent encounters between the sides.

"We dominated the game up until Hibs scored," said Robertson.

"We won all the challenges in the first half, won the battle, played the better football and created the better chances.

"Mark Burchill and Steven Pressley had two good chances and it was all going according to plan. But from a match we had control of and with chances to go further ahead, we were suddenly 2-1 down and that was hard to take.

"The disappointing thing late on was that we kept on Cesnauskis and pushed Jamie McAllister wide left so we could get the ball to them from crosses into the box.

"But we went too direct and although we had a couple of squeaks, ultimately it was not enough."

Taken from the Scotsman

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