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<-Page <-Team Tue 15 Sep 2009 Hearts 1 Kilmarnock 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> William Collum
20 of 020 Andrew Driver 30 L SPL H

Driver gives Hearts direction

AFTER failing to buy a reputable striker during the summer, Hearts welcomed Andy Driver back from injury and were promptly reminded why his value to the club is becoming incalculable.
Manager Csaba Laszlo left Tynecastle nursing a badly bruised thumb last night after punching the dugout in frustration at his side's inability to convert a series of second-half opportunities. Driver's contribution would have consoled him somewhat, f or his clinical first-half finish ultimately secured three very crucial points.

The Englishman made his first start of the campaign after heel and muscle problems and scored the game's only goal after 31 minutes. Reaching a tame clearance ahead of Kilmarnock's Jamie Hamill, he controlled the ball and lashed a dipping effort with his weaker right foot beyond debutant goalkeeper Mark Brown from 18 yards.

Driver's scoring exploits have been conspicuous by their absence this season and, after the interval, his colleagues demonstrated why Hearts have craved a finishing touch so badly. Suso, Michael Stewart, David Obua and Christian Nade all passed up a plethora of chances, although none more brazen than the Spaniard's. When he peeled free of defenders and prepared to head Craig Thomson's measured cross goalwards on 50 minutes, a second goal seemed inevitable. But his header lacked genuine power and direction, allowing Brown to save. In the home technical area Laszlo's fist thundered against the perspex. To give an idea of his venom, not to mention strength, his right thumb was turning purple by full-time.

Inwardly, he felt satisfied having overseen a first domestic victory of the season that lifts Hearts to eighth in the SPL table. And for that he thanked Driver.

"He can create very big danger on both sides as a wide player. If you have very fast wide players you can put every defence in trouble," said Laszlo. "When I came to this club Driver never scored with his head. Last season he scored a couple of goals with his head. His right leg he only used for walking but last night he scored with the right. This is a big development.

"It was important to have Driver back in the team, now we have a new puzzle. We had a problem in the striker position and I was forced to think of something special. We played a new shape and we have never played with so many attacking people. Up front we were okay, in defence we did not lose any goals. It was a successful day.

"This was a very important three points to get the confidence back. We won 2-0 against Dinamo Zagreb, we scored two goals against St Johnstone and last night we had the opportunity to score more goals. We have the same situation as last season. We create a lot of chances but goalscoring is difficult. If we win every game 1-0 I am not unhappy."

On his own injury, he remarked: "I damaged my finger. Maybe it's broken, I don't know. I punched the dugout because of the chance for Suso. You must get this goal because if you are 2-0 ahead you can make more possibilities. Suso should have asked the goalkeeper what he wanted in that situation. 'Would you like to have the right corner or the left corner?' You can also ask if he wants you to shoot with the left or right foot. You must score this goal, this is terrible. The goalkeeper held it very well, he was in the right corner, but we had other possibilities."

Laszlo accused Kilmarnock of playing long balls throughout the match, and after the introduction of Kevin Kyle alongside Conor Sammon in the second half the visitors' priority was most definitely route one. However it was to no avail.

Kyle started as substitute given his recent knee problems but Brown, on loan from Celtic, debuted in goal in place of the injured Alan Combe. Hearts also emerged with a change of goalkeeper as Marian Kello deputised for Janos Balogh, who was precluded by illness. An attacking 4-2-3-1 formation accorded the home side the early impetus.

With Driver, Gary Glen, Suso and Obua interchanging positions the Kilmarnock defence found themselves pulled around and struggled to cope with their opponents' movement. Going forward they relied heavily on the invention of Mehdi Taouil and Craig Bryson, but Ismael Bouzid and Jose Goncalves looked assured in resisting their advances. Indeed, one piece of gamesmanship from the Portuguese on 20 minutes exemplified his recent rise in confidence. After emerging from central defence to control a loose ball, he stopped in time to shoulder charge Jamie Hamill out of the way before impishly playing on. It was well appreciated by the Tynecastle natives.

Sammon had the game's first meaningful shot on 21 minutes which Kello grasped safely. Seconds later, a venomous 20-yard drive from Suso was parried by Brown.

It was evident at the midway point of the opening half that Hearts were benefitting from quick deliveries from back to front, which seemed to be a deliberate tactic on their part. That said, the opening goal followed a more measured build up down the left flank involving the outstanding Ruben Palazuelos, Driver, Obua and finally Lee Wallace. Kilmarnock took time in clearing the full-back's cross, and even then the ball barely left the 18-yard box. Driver's desire saw him beat Hamill to possesssion on the edge of the penalty area and arc a right-footed shot over Brown and into the net.

From there the hosts continued in command. Glen glanced another Wallace cross high and Thomson, enjoying another excellent display, would have doubled the advantage had Brown not beat his swerving 42nd-minute drive to safety. But, seconds before the break Hearts survived a scare when Sammon nodded Clancy's long throw on to the unmarked Fernandez, who headed over from eight yards with the goal gaping.

Kilmarnock seemed to derive encouragement from the near miss and began the second half in the ascendancy. When Sammon intelligently backheeled into the path of Bryson, Kello had to be at full stretch to tip the midfielder's drive on to his right post. Then it was Hearts' turn to pass up a blatant opportunity. Thomson planted a sweeping ball from the right on Suso's head, but the Spaniard's downward effort lacked power and the sprawling Brown produced a critical save.

Jim Jefferies, the visiting manager, introduced Kyle for Fernandez in search of an equaliser and watched the imposing Scotland international narrowly miss with a header from Garry Hay's free-kick. Indeed, the remainder of the game was peppered with near things. Suso mesmerised Simon Ford with a driving forward run involving several stepovers before jabbing the ball wide. Obua headed Driver's cross into the Gorgie Stand, while in between Frazer Wright rose to power another of Hay's free-kicks at Kello, who collided with his left post while plucking the ball from the air. Stewart also had a couple of unsuccessful attempts at goal.

Kilmarnock, mindful of Hearts' narrow advantage, attempted to assert themselves more as the closing stages approached but were met by strong resistance from the home rearguard. The visitors broke forward in the 77th minute but, looking suspiciously offside, Kyle struck the side netting from distance. Four minutes from time Kyle chested a deep cross into substitute Danny Invincibile's path but he and Sammon attacked the same ball and scooped it over the bar.

Tension enveloped Tynecastle throughout the final minutes but Hearts remained dangerous going forward, with Suso's enthralling dribbling creating openings aplenty. Substitute Graeme Owens struck a poor free-kick into the home wall on 89 minutes, and after some tense stoppage time the victory was secured.

"It's been a frustrating start to the season so to get of to a flyer like that gives you confidence," said Driver of his goal. "That's what you miss about football. My fitness isn't too bad so I'm happy with how it went. I don't know where that goal came from. I've been told I'm the luckiest guy ever. It was just one of them where you don't have time to think about it. It drops, you hit it and hope for the best.

"We get criticised for not scoring enough goals but we showed, if we play at our best, we're going to create a lot of chances. On another day we could have scored three or four. We can take confidence from this and hopefully get the season kicked off.

"The three players playing behind the striker are going to create chances. Suso can create, so can David Obua and he is good in the air. We have Gaz (Glen] as well who is creative and has a chance to get a good run in the team. I think you'll see a lot more from him in the coming weeks. He led the line well, made some good runs and I think he will score goals. He's a natural scorer."

Glen, 19, may evolve into a useful part of the Hearts arsenal given time. But few at Tynecastle can finish as instinctively as Driver does.

Taken from the Scotsman

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