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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Alan Freeland
[B Robson 37] ;[G Brebner 91]
1 of 007 Lee Miller 39 L SPL A

Saul searching will help me shine


SAULIUS MIKOLIUNAS hopes to shine again for Hearts as he emerges from the darkest period of his career.

The Lithuanian star is poised to make his first appearance for the Jambos at Tannadice tomorrow after serving a six-game ban following his clash with assistant referee Andy Davis during last month’s controversial league meeting with Rangers at Tynecastle.

The 20-year-old’s successful appeal over the original suspension dished out by the Scottish Football Association saw his punishment slashed by two matches, making him available for the trip to Tayside as the Gorgie outfit look to bounce back from the disappointment of their derby defeat to Hibs on Wednesday night.

Since being banished into the footballing wilderness by the Hampden bosses, Mikoliunas’ only competitive action was as a late substitute in his country’s World Cup qualifier in Bosnia.

For the past six weeks he has been working tirelessly in training each day in an effort to maintain his fitness.

A huge hit with the fans since his arrival from Kaunas in January, he is desperate to pull on his boots again as Hearts prepare to take on a resurgent United side which hauled themselves off the foot of the table with Tuesday’s shock win at Ibrox.

With Robertson considering changes to his starting XI after a disappointing week which began with defeat from Celtic in the semi-final of the Tennent’s Scottish Cup, the talented Lithuanian could see himself thrown straight back into the thick of the action.

"My ban was the worst thing to happen to me in my career," said the Gorgie playmaker.

"It was a very bad time and a difficult period for me but I was happy to have the suspension reduced on appeal and thankfully I am now available to play again.

"I have been working hard in training to keep up my fitness and am ready if the manager wants me to play. It is obviously not my decision but I would be delighted to be involved again tomorrow."

The Jambos’ 2-1 reverse against the Hibees dealt a killer blow to their chances of reeling in their arch rivals as the season enters the closing straight, the Leith outfit having opened up a daunting eight-point gap with their Tynecastle triumph.

With just six matches of the current campaign remaining, the odds are now stacked against John Robertson’s men retaining their "best of the rest" crown which they have proudly held for the last two years.

"It is going to be very difficult to finish in third place now which is disappointing as we started the game so well against Hibs," said Mikoliunas.

"But we have to keep believing and give it our best shot in the games that are left. Tomorrow is another tough game as Dundee United will be so confident after their win over Rangers at Ibrox. It would be great if I could get a game tomorrow."

The Mikoliunas who runs out for his first game since March 2 will be an older and wiser professional, a fact he hopes will help both himself and his team-mates.

He said: "I don’t think I’ll ever do something like that again. I know I will learn from my mistake and hopefully I can do well for the team in the coming weeks to help get over what was a shock for me."

One man also desperate to face United is 17-year-old defender Jason Thomson.

Despite coping admirably with the cauldron of an Edinburgh derby in what was just his second game for the club, the youngster feels he was at fault at both of Hibs’ second-half goals as the Easter Road side stunned a packed Tynecastle with a dramatic fightback.

Skipper Steven Pressley has already accepted blame for the equaliser but Thomson is also shouldering responsibility after his penalty box clearance fell to Garry O’Connor to score the equaliser

The teenager also feels he could have done better at the visitors’ winner but hopes his boss gives him another chance against United with regular right-back Robbie Neilson, pictured right, who was injured in midweek, suspended for the trip north.

"I thought I was at fault for both of their goals and it didn’t feel good at all," he said.

"I thought I had a good enough first half but my confidence was affected after they equalised.

"I first thought our keeper was coming for the ball but he didn’t. I still should have cleared it better as I didn’t catch it as well as I should have. That was only my second game for the club and while it was a great feeling to play in a derby, obviously the result spoiled it for me.

"Robbie is suspended for tomorrow but hopefully I will be involved. I want to get back out there as soon as possible after the derby. The boss may want to change things after our mistakes but I want a second chance to prove myself." Thomson has been too harsh in his assessment of his role in his side’s defeat, his display actually one of the few encouraging aspects of the loss.

Signed by Hearts from Loanhead Boys’ Club, he has already shown he has a bright future ahead of him in the game.

Robertson wasn’t afraid to give him his chance and the full-back is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow-teenager Lee Wallace in becoming a first-team regular at Tynecastle.

He said: "Lee’s done brilliantly. I’ve been a team-mate of his for the past three seasons and although we are the same age, he has helped me through the two games I have played for Hearts.

"He has come through the youths like myself and is a great example of what can happen if you do well enough. That has to be by aim in the long run but for now I just want to try to beat Dundee United tomorrow.

"This is the wrong time of the season to be playing catch-up for third place but we won’t give up until it’s mathematically impossible.

"We have to take points from most of our games and tomorrow will be tough as United are flying just now under Gordon Chisholm. That’s what often happens when a new manager comes in but we have to be ready for the challenge."

Taken from the Scotsman

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