London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> William Collum
7 of 021 ----- L SPL H

Third place battle ends in stalemate

Barry Anderson at Tynecastle
THE quest for third-place supremacy ended in stalemate as Tynecastle hosted its biggest crowd of the season. Hearts marketed this game as "Back The Team Day" and their supporters certainly responded in a crowd of 16,442. They arrived hoping for a victory that would see Hearts clear in third place, but both teams succeeded only in cancelling one another out.
Jon Daly and Andy Driver had the afternoon's clearest chances, the Hearts player sending a weak right-footed shot into Lukasz Zaluska's arms before his United counterpart powered a header wide from Danny Swason's corner.

A draw will not hamper either side's European ambitions. Hearts extended their unbeaten run to seven matches while their visitors have now suffered just one defeat in their last 16 outings. Although pre-Christmas flair was in short supply, the end result fairly reflected the 90 minutes fare.

Stability has been the catalyst for Hearts' recent domination so a team showing one change was indeed a welcome sight for the Gorgie natives. Lee Wallace replaced Eggert Jonsson at left-back, the Icelander a victim of his own versatility after deputising at left-back last weekend. Dundee United's flexible 4-5-1 system looked capable of causing problems, particularly in wide areas patrolled by David Robertson and the skilful Craig Conway.

Pre-match formalities included a minute's silence for late Hearts legends John Cumming and John Urquhart, with shirts bearing both players' names laid on the field as a mark of respect. Their places in the annals of Tynecastle are assured, and the current squad are not faring so badly by comparison.

Although United begun sprightly and closed their opponents down tenaciously, Hearts' resilience was again in evidence as they came into the match. Genuine goal chances were absent until the 28th minute, when Larry Kingston's adventurous run saw him force Zaluska to save low to his left. Lee Wilkie then positioned himself cleverly to deflect Driver's attempt from Lee Wallace's precise cross.

Proceedings boiled over just after the half-hour when Christian Nade, the Hearts forward, charged into an ill-advised challenge on Dundee United's Paul Dixon and made no attempt to play the ball. Nade was cautioned for his offence but, after remonstrating with Craig Levein, was promptly substituted by Csaba Laszlo, presumably to avoid any further controversy which might have resulted in a red card. Nade shrugged off Laszlo's pat on the back after being replaced by David Obua in a change which did not please many home supporters.

Hearts could have moved ahead on 41 minutes had Obua or Ruben Palazuelos gambled on Larry Kingston's ball across the face of goal reaching them. Andy Driver's left-footed attempt from 12 yards was the final act of an intriguing if unremarkable opening period.

Driver meandered past Garry Kenneth and Willo Flood shortly after the restart but could only watch Zaluska hold his shot while Obua lurked in the penalty area awaiting a cross. Then came a defining moment in the match as Hearts claimed for what looked a stonewall penalty during a period of concerted pressure. Driver this time did deliver a cross and Larry Kingston's first-time shot appeared to strike Kenneth on the arm. Referee William Collum did not agree, however.

Obua then failed to control a return pass from the influential Bruno Aguiar and consequently wasted a fine opportunity to shoot. There was little denying that Hearts were dominating, though midfield remained congested with little room for cohesive passing. An error by Dixon allowed Driver to fashion the game's best opening on 67 minutes. The full-back's pass landed at the Englishman's feet but, having left Flood standing during a 40-yard run, his tame right-footed finish nestled in Zaluska's arms.

Daly then indulged in profligacy of a similar standard in nodding substitute Swanson's corner wide despite no marker being in attendance. This began the visitors most prominent spell as Swanson galloped freely down the right flank to deliver some testing balls into Janos Balogh's penalty area.

Laszlo conducted an enforced change seven minutes from time, the injured Obua making way for Deividas Cesnauskis and departing to a chorus of jeers. By then both sides seemed content to settle for a point each to remain joint third in the league table.

Hearts (4-4-1-1): Balogh; Neilson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Kingston, Karipidis, Palazuelos, Driver; Aguiar; Nade. Subs: MacDonald, Obua 33 (for Nade), Cesnauskis 84 (for Obua), Mole, Thomson, Jonsson, Stewart 77 (for Aguiar).

Dundee United (4-5-1): Zaluska; Kovacevic, Wilkie, Kenneth, Dixon; D Robertson, Flood, S Robertson, Gomis Conway; Daly. McGovern, Dillon, Grainger, Feeney, O'Donovan, Swanson 63 (for D Robertson), Buaben.

Referee: William Collum.

Attendance: 16,442.

Taken from the Scotsman

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