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Aberdeen 0 - 1 Hearts: Gritty Hearts win sees clouds of crises blown north to gather over Pittodrie

Published Date: 01 March 2010
By Scott Davie
WHAT a difference a month makes. On 27 January Hearts were a club in crisis following a 3-0 home defeat against an ebullient Aberdeen, yet by the same date in February the roles were completely reversed.
Csaba Laszlo was the latest manager to succumb to the capricious nature of owner Vladimir Romanov in the aftermath of that Tynecastle reverse and the early signs are the former Russian submariner got that decision right.

Jim Jefferies arrival as replacement has restored a link to a more stable era at the club and it's Aberdeen who are now plumbing the depths in desperate need of inspiration.

The return of Jefferies has certainly done that for Hearts on the evidence of the spirit displayed in adversity at Pittodrie, something Aberdeen counterpart Mark McGhee could only look on at with envy.

After all, it was only in early January that Laszlo's Hearts capitulated meekly to the same opponents at the same venue in the Scottish Cup and it would have been more understandable had something similar happened on Saturday.

Instead Hearts showed tremendous resilience to dig out a third successive SPL win despite losing both starting central defenders, Dawid Kucharski and Marius Zaliukas, to injury either side of the interval.

To make matters worse Kucharski's replacement at the end of the first half lasted less than ten minutes overall as Laryea Kingston was sent off in controversial circumstances for the second time at Pittodrie.

In March 2007 he was actually red carded twice, once for football misdemeanours and a once for calling referee Steve Conroy a racist, although the Ghana international at least had grounds for feeling hard done by this time.

His challenge on Fraser Fyvie certainly merited some action by referee Willie Collum but a yellow card looked more appropriate and Hearts will consider an appeal once they have viewed it on television.

If the official is vindicated then it will be the first test for Jefferies' new code of conduct at a club who have now had nine red cards during the current campaign.

However Saturday's incidents simply seemed to galvanise the players left behind and Eggert Jonsson lit up an otherwise dreadfully dull spectacle with a sublime overhead kick to secure victory in 64 minutes.

Jefferies was quick to exonerate both teams for poor play because of the threadbare Pittodrie pitch and a bitterly cold, swirling wind but the Hearts manager was thrilled to have won despite all the trying circumstances.

He said: "I don't think I have made as many changes in a football match so to come through it and get three points is just a fantastic result as it was a real battle out there today.

"I told the players in the dressing room that if anyone doubted their spirit and determination then they certainly got their answer out there today and I think we deserved the win for the way they kept going. My first objective was to strengthen our push for a top six finish but now we have to look at who is above us and are they catchable? I think they are so we will see what we can do, especially if I can get a few more players back from injury."

If Hearts are eagerly looking at the teams above them then Aberdeen are now anxiously eyeing the five that are still below them in the division after a run of two points from the six SPL matches played since that win at Tynecastle.

That sequence includes two defeats to bottom club Falkirk and when you add Scottish Cup elimination by Raith Rovers to the mix then you have a team seemingly in meltdown at the moment.

Quite simply the Aberdeen players look intimidated playing in their own stadium as that home defeat in the cup is compounded by the fact they have taken just four points from the last 21 available at Pittodrie.

Nine home defeats in 17 games overall under McGhee is driving away fans in their droves as Saturday's attendance of 8,316 proves, as well as adding to the financial problems of a club over £9 million in the red.

Despite a man advantage for 31 minutes and the disruption injuries caused for the visitors, Aberdeen didn't force Janos Balogh into a serious save all afternoon and they looked like the criticism heaped on by manager, fans and the media recently had drained every drop of confidence from them. What McGhee does to change that is hard to fathom as he has tried bawling them out and asking their opinion of what he can do better to improve things with little sign of a positive response. That situation is forcing the manager to look down rather than up.

"Nothing I saw today suggests we are going to make the top six. We have to batten down the hatches and prepare ourselves to make sure we don't end up in a relegation fight," said McGhee.

"I don't think we are in that yet but if we were to lose the next two games then I think we could be staring at a situation where we are a lot closer to it than we would hope to be."

Taken from the Scotsman

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