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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth auth-> Iain Brines
[G Carey 44]
5 of 005 Marius Zaliukas 47L SPL A

St Mirren 1 - 1 Hearts; Hearts' top-six ambitions slipping with each slack away performance

Published Date: 05 April 2010
By Andrew Smith
HEARTS' season could effectively end at the weekend. Watching too many insipid passages of play for them on Saturday, the question is whether it ever really began. Two managers, 33 players and the grand total of three away wins hints at why the Tynecastle club are struggling to attain even mid-table respectability with a place in the top six.
Should St Johnstone win at home to Dundee United tonight and away to Aberdeen next Sunday, short of tanking Kilmarnock at Tynecastle the day before, they will find themselves leading the bottom six though their season's end but will have little relevance in those final five games in comparison to others fighting relegation.

Hearts sleepwalked their way through the first-half at St Mirren Park in a fashion all-too-familiar to regular watchers. If seeking positive, possible evidence of the Jim Jefferies effect was the fact that they didn't continue in this manner and doze to defeat – as a humdinger of a 35-yard free-kick strike Graham Carey looked like it might set them up for. They actually roused themselves, and ultimately were worth the headed equaliser Marius Zaliukas supplied them just after the interval.

It was slim pickings, mind you, and Eggert Jonsson was forced to acknowledged that rations could be about to drop below sustenance level. "We need to wait and see what St Johnstone do, there is not much we can do about it now," the Icelandic defender said.

"The St Mirren game was a chance to get all three points and put it away from them, but obviously we've left the door open a bit.

"Anything else but the top six is a failure when you are Hearts. The fans, everyone, expects us to be there, if not higher up. Unfortunately, I was here the last time they finished out of the top six and you have nothing to look forward to. You play for nothing. But if you finish in the top six you've got big games against big teams and its where you want to be."

Jonsson didn't bite on the suggestion that Hearts could put down a marker when they entertain Kilmarnock. "We just have to win the game," he said. "They are in a relegation battle so it will be a massive game for both teams. I'm not sure about the goal difference, it is in St Johnstone's hands, and we can only focus on our game."

Jefferies admitted on radio, after a draw he had no quibbles about, that it was simply a case of seeing this season out and looking forward to the summer to really make his mark on the squad and the team. Yet it must concern him that, for all they have been talked up, the more that youngsters Gary Glen, David Templeton and Craig Thomson are given run-outs, the more Csaba Laszlo's reluctance to ask too much of them begins to make sense.

What the Tynecastle club's latest trip to Paisley will be remembered for when all else is long forgotten is the latest demonstration of extra-ordinary set-piece sorcery from St Mirren's on-loan Celtic midfielder Carey. The 20-year-old Irishman has an ability to delivery deadly free-kicks that rightly had his team-mate Jack Ross drawing comparisons with former Lyon player Juninho and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. His goal, and two other efforts that Jamie MacDonald blocked with excellent saves, were in that class.

"(It's] one of those things that football throws up," Jack said. "You talk about changes in a game and the way he strikes the ball is interesting for me. I've been brought up to either side-foot it or strike it with the front of your foot, and its almost a mixture of the two. You see nowadays – Juninho of Lyon (was the] first guy to do it – where you get so much movement on the ball. Every time he gets ball he is confident to do something.

"It is difficult to master the way he strikes ball. You see guys like Ronaldo doing it, when I was coming through it was unheard of to strike it that way. There is a fine margin for error. Either you get it spot on, and it looks fantastic, or don't and it can look quite wild. His success rate is brilliant."

Carey's craft in this area makes him a potential match-winner. These are mighty thin on the ground in the St Mirren ranks, which explains why they have won only one of their past 18 games and will head to Falkirk on Saturday only three points ahead of the side propping up the league. Injuries are stripping away Gus MacPherson's option to breaking point – he only named six substitutes again at the weekend – and there is simply no telling whether the Paisley club can avoid suffering a fatal wounding as they seek to extend their SPL life.

Taken from the Scotsman

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