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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth auth-> Crawford Allan
3 of 004 Michael Stewart 39L SPL H

Hearts 1 - 0 Motherwell: Solid Hearts grind down another foe

Published Date: 31 December 2009
By Barry Anderson
LAUDED as heroes by Vladimir Romanov just hours before kick-off, the Hearts players overcame Motherwell utilising the resilience and fighting spirit that is gradually hauling them back into European contention weeks after they resembled relegation candidates.
Michael Stewart's 39th-minute goal secured a victory which leaves his team five points off fourth-placed Dundee United and now brimming with confidence ahead of Sunday's Edinburgh derby.

Last night's fare was not pretty. It seldom has been for those of a maroon persuasion this season. Nonetheless, sheer character and determination brought about a third-successive win for a club that seems to have effected its own mini resurgence in recent weeks. An unexpected bonus was the sight of the real Christian Nade finally standing up. He replaced the injured Jamie Mole after 20 minutes and gave the kind of inspirational attacking performance rarely seen since his arrival from Sheffield United almost two-and-a-half years ago.

Stewart's winner was attributed to the Frenchman's perseverance, not to mention his tenacity, in charging through the Motherwell defence. He resisted three challenges from Stephen Craigan and, when his initial cross was blocked by the visiting captain, he reacted instantly to clip the ball clear of the advancing goalkeeper, John Ruddy, for Stewart to slide into an empty goal.

The victory was overshadowed to some extent by comments from Romanov prior to kick-off which cast doubt upon Steven MacLean and Izale McLeod's chances of joining Hearts. However, manager Csaba Laszlo was keen to praise the commitment shown by his players and the club staff who had worked throughout yesterday to ensure Tynecastle and its surrounding environs were fit to host this game despite inclement weather. On a truly horrible winter's evening, Hearts coped admirably with sleet, snow and a Motherwell side seeking to impress interim manager Craig Brown.

"I like to congratulate the team for their spirit because this was not an easy game after the opponents changed their manager," said Laszlo. "Motherwell tried to show that they would like to end their run without wins. After going 1-0 down they kept trying. My players tried to play simple football for the last 20 minutes and that brought us the 1-0 win. The heaviest is to win a game 1-0 and this showed again.

"I am not unsatisfied but I think some players must have better decisions in some situations. Then you can make your life easier. For that you need more experience and I need players to be focused on this. It's important that we gave something back to the staff who worked hard for the game to be on. We won the game for them. Our supporters did not see a fantastic football game but they saw a successful game. They stood behind us in a difficult situation. This shows that Hearts is a great unit."

That harmony does not quite extend to the club hierarchy in Lithuania, however. Romanov yesterday questioned whether Laszlo needs MacLean and McLead and said that the Hungarian was doing a sound PR job on behalf of both player given the scale of their media exposure since they began training with Hearts this week. Laszlo responded: "I haven't read these comments. If you take the table, we have played 18 games and scored 17 goals. This shows in which position we have problems."

Asked if he thought Romanov and the board would back his plans to sign MacLean and McLeod on loan in January, Laszlo continued: "At the moment I can't give any answer. I am here to do my best for this club. I do everything that is possible.

"The last meeting with our owner was very positive and he agreed we need fresh blood up front, people who hold the ball and create pressure. About the two strikers in my focus, I think they don't need a PR manager if you see their CV, especially McLeod. In 116 games he scored 54 goals. My job is to bring people who would like to come here.

"I can give you an answer (about whether they will sign] after the transfer window is closed. I am very positive, if you are not positive you can't survive in this job."

Hearts, in truth, began uncomfortably against a highly-motivated Motherwell team last night. A defensive mix-up involving Lee Wallace and Marian Kello almost presented Jim O'Brien with an early goal during a towsy opening period. Jose Goncalves' header from Suso's corner was headed off the Motherwell goal line by Steven Hammell on 15 minutes before Mole, having suffered a recurrence of his ankle injury, trudged off to be replaced by Nade.

Hearts proceeded to assert themselves in the face of driving snow and sleet and camped themselves in the opposition half. Brown's favoured 4-5-1 formation seemed to hinder Motherwell's natural attacking instincts and often left O'Brien lacking support when going forward. Although the hosts lacked craft, Nade conjured the opening goal through sheer persistence six minutes from the interval, the ball swept home from eight yards by the left foot of Stewart.

There was more defensive uncertainty at the start of the second half as Marius Zaliukas' backpass proved overly strong for Kello. Lukas Jutkiewicz took possession but was forced wide by the goalkeeper and the chance evaporated.

Moments later Hearts dispatched a quick free-kick towards Nade on the left, Suso connected with the Frenchman's driven cross but succeeded only in scooping the ball over the crossbar. Kello required two attempts to collect Steven Saunders' header from Ross Forbes' corner at the opposite end before touching Jutkiewicz's driven shot away for a corner.

With the anonymous Jamie Murphy replaced by John Sutton, Motherwell posed greater threat after switching to a 4-4-2 formation. Eggert Jonsson felt the full force of their power in the tenderest part of his anatomy when blocking O'Brien's 72nd-minute drive from distance. As the second half progressed, it became evident that Hearts were content to preserve their slender advantage rather than risk losing an equaliser by trying to increase it. The sight of their midfield and defence continually retreating did not sit comfortably with all of the Tynecastle natives, but there was a sense of gratification to be derived from the passion of the home players.

Jonsson, Zaliukas and Ismael Bouzid were seen throwing their bodies in the way of the ball during the latter stages, winning headers and thumping clearances high into opposition territory. Stewart was vocally striving to maintain concentration, while Nade, although clearly tired, never stopped running.

From Ross Forbes' 88th-minute corner the unmarked Mark Reynolds headed arguably Motherwell's best chance of the game wide. When a stoppage-time free-kick by Forbes was fisted clear by Kello, it was clear the points would remain in Gorgie.

"It was just one of those games," said O'Brien, Motherwell's best player on the night. "You get a chance, don't take it and think you'll get another one. There are a lot of positives to take with the new manager just coming in. We did everything he asked except score, which is frustrating. He's taken the shackles off and told us to go and enjoy it and play. He's told everyone to get a smile on their face and work hard. We did that and played some nice stuff against Hearts. If we continue like that we'll win more games than we'll lose."

Hearts player ratings


Handling excellent in difficult conditions and he saved Hearts on a few occasions


Made one terrific, goal- saving challenge late on


Generally solid but some major lapses in concentration are a concern


Worked hard and dealt effectively with the Motherwell threat


Another fine display from the consistent full-back

SUSO - 5

Winger squandered a great chance after the break


Worked tirelessly despite doing a thankless task


Overall contribution was excellent topped by a well-taken strike


Used the ball well despite the tricky conditions

MOLE - 3

Didn't have time to make his mark as he limped off early on


Had one decent effort blocked after the break

Substitutes: Nade 7, Templeton 3, Kucharski 1

Taken from the Scotsman

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