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Csaba Laszlo <-auth auth-> Steve O'Reilly
Goncalves Jose [C Samuel 60] ;[J Johansson 88]
5 of 005 Christian Nade 34L SPL H

Hearts 1 - 2 St Johnstone: Meek capitulation increases doubt over Laszlo's future at Hearts

Published Date: 23 November 2009
ST JOHNSTONE deserve all the credit going for a rousing second-half display, but, unfortunately for the enterprising Perth men, the league's top scorers outwith the Old Firm, it was hard not to focus on the fact this win left Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts manager, resembling a dead man walking.
A radio report that the Hungarian had resigned following a ten-minute telephone conversation with club owner Vladimir Romanov in the immediate aftermath of what was a meek capitulation was instantly knocked down by a Hearts PR man, but it is hard to escape the notion that a parting of ways between the manager and the club he led to third place last season is only a matter of time away.

The big question is whether he will jump or be pushed, and that will depend if anyone can be bothered to make the first move. Laszlo looked a forlorn figure as he went over the same old ground (he talked of the need to speak with the board, his lack of striking options, injury problems and a lack of heart for the battle in some of his players) in his after-match press conference, and he appears to have given up on trying to take this mediocre bunch to third place.

The stadium was devoid of atmosphere, even when Hearts were winning and playing well in the first half, suggesting the majority of fans have given up on the manager/owner or both. And the players: too many of them simply didn't do enough when this game was very much there for the taking.

Undoubtedly, Laszlo has to take his share of the blame as his continual negativity – or brutal honesty, if you prefer – in press conferences can't be doing much good for morale among a group of players who appear to be as timid as anything in the SPL. Apart from Michael Stewart, who typically was one of the few trying to make a difference when the chips were down on Saturday, there's a clear lack of confidence and character in this side and having their manager persistently highlight their weaknesses, while talking up his desire to land other jobs – even if it is to make a point to Romanov – surely isn't the way to go about improving matters.

The other charge levelled at Laszlo is that his tactics are too negative, but it's hard to see what, with the resources at his disposal, he could have done to be more adventurous against a St Johnstone side reeling from the news that their veteran midfielder Martin Hardie is out for the season with damaged knee ligaments. You can't get blood out of a stone, as the saying goes, and you can't get a regular flow of goals out of cumbersome and powderpuff forwards. His principal striker, Christian Nade, never has and never will be prolific despite the superb 25-yard strike which gave Hearts a deserved first-half lead on Saturday and ended the Frenchman's nine-month goal drought. Gary Glen, who played just behind Nade, has yet to do anything of note since his goal against Hibs in January, while the back-ups at the weekend were the hitherto ineffective Arvydas Novikovas and David Witteveen.

Is it really Laszlo's fault that Suso Santana, Andrew Driver and David Templeton, the only Hearts players who provide spark from the wide positions, are all injured? They've spent the early part of the season lamenting the departures of Robbie Neilson, Christophe Berra, Bruno Aguiar and Christos Karipidis, but on Saturday you even felt the likes of Saulius Mikoliunas or Deividas Cesnauskis might have made a difference in helping Hearts turn their first-half superiority into more goals.

These are all players Laszlo has been shorn of in the past ten months and the replacements just aren't up to scratch. It's not every season you can say, on paper at least, that only three of the Hearts starting eleven would be guaranteed a place in a St Johnstone side, but it would be hard to make a strong case for anyone apart from Stewart, Jose Goncalves and Lee Wallace being good enough to win a place in Derek McInnes' slick and ambitious outfit.

If Laszlo goes, Romanov is unlikely to appoint a Scot, given his apparent contempt for football in this country. The replacement, therefore, would most likely be another Eastern European who would have to work under the same constraints as Laszlo and would probably adopt a similarly cautious approach. Short of trying to inject some much-needed passion in the squad by employing the likes of John Robertson, Gary Mackay and Gary Locke to the coaching staff, it's hard to see how the club moves forward from here.

So far this season, Laszlo could find solace in the fact he's managed to reshape a fairly solid defence, but even that malfunctioned on Saturday when Collin Samuel, a striker of the ilk Hearts are crying out for, was allowed acres of space to head home a leveller after Filipe Morais had brilliantly bamboozled Jason Thomson to dig out a cross from the left on the hour. If any team was going to win it then, it was St Johnstone, who had bossed the second-half, and that prospect grew significantly when Goncalves was sent off for a high challenge on Liam Craig with 13 minutes left.

McInnes, sensing that victory was there for the taking, all but thumbed his nose to Laszlo when he introduced a fourth attacker in the shape of Jonatan Johansson in the 86th minute. His bravery paid instant dividends when the ex-Hibs player tapped in with his first touch within a minute of coming on after David Obua inexplicably got caught in possession while dallying deep inside his own box. It was the Finn's first SPL goal in ten years.

The Ugandan was instantly substituted by Laryea Kingston, and, in a moment that summed up the despair among the beleaguered Tynecastle supporters, it was hard to decipher whether the howls of derision from the emptying stands were aimed at the man going off, his replacement, the man making the change, or the man overseeing this whole sorry mess from his Lithuanian bolthole.


Jody Morris (St Johnstone)

Hearts pair Michael Stewart and Christian Nade were the best performers in the first half, while St Johnstone substitute Kevin Moon and Collin Samuel were excellent after the break, but it was Morris, the little midfield terrier, who shone brightest throughout.

Taken from the Scotsman

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