London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 18 Sep 2010 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 Hearts 3 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Iain Brines
[E Odhiambo 37]
13 of 013 Christopher Innes og 44 ;Ryan Stevenson 55 ;Calum Elliot 69L SPL A

Hearts dig deep to show they are force to be reckoned with

BEARING in mind the number of injuries to key players with which they have had to contend, Hearts have enjoyed a more than satisfactory start to the season. This victory in Inverness was their most auspicious result so far: not as big a win as the one at Hamilton, but achieved against more resilient opponents.
Lee Wallace and Marius Zaliukas are missing from Jim Jefferies' first-choice back four, and the latter, who has been holding out against signing a new contract as well as being injured, seems unlikely to be back. Strikers Kevin Kyle and Steven Elliot t, close-season signings both, have also been unable to feature regularly.

In the light of these and other absences, Jefferies' record of two wins, two draws and a defeat from the opening five games is an impressive one. Once his squad is back close to full strength, and Rudi Skacel is integrated into it, the Tynecastle manager should be able to mount a sustained fight to hold on to the third place in which his team currently stands.

To an extent, Ian Black's misfortune was a stroke of luck for his team, as the ankle knock which ended the midfielder's involvement brought Kyle off the bench and into the fray earlier than Jefferies had planned. Although a close-season injury has meant the burly striker is not yet fully match-fit, he had more than enough running in him to discomfit an Inverness Caley Thistle team who played confidently for most of the first half, and who took the lead only a minute after Kyle's introduction.

The goal, calmly finished off by Eric Odhiambo after a sweeping move involving Nick Ross and Stuart Duff, might have unsettled Hearts had the lead it produced lasted. Just before the break, however, an inswinging free-kick from the left by the lively David Templeton evaded all the home defenders except Chris Innes, who, under severe pressure from Kyle at the back post, volleyed into his own net.

Hearts carried that momentum into the second half, and went ahead when Kyle headed down a cross from Calum Elliot into the path of Ryan Stevenson, who scored with a first-time shot from ten yards.

Shortly afterwards, Elliot should have been awarded a penalty after being pulled back by Innes, then at the other end Adam Rooney spurned a good opportunity to equalise when he shot wide after being put through on goal.

A goal for the home team at that point might just have tipped the contest back in their favour, but instead Hearts soon claimed the goal that ensured they travelled south with the three points. Kyle was involved again, feeding Suso down the right. The Spanish winger motored to the goal-line and cut back a low ball for Elliot, who shot home first-time.

The result continued Caley Thistle's poor home record, which was also a feature of their last season in the SPL, but Terry Butcher is right not to be too worried by their early-season form. Their one victory so far, a 4-0 thrashing of Dundee United at Tannadice, may have been brought about largely by their opponents' ineptitude that day, yet in general they have been by no means outclassed on their return to the top flight.

Rooney and Jonny Hayes were at times profligate with possession in this game, but they constitute a threat which will trouble most defences - indeed, for long spells of the second half the Hearts back four was at full stretch in attempting to deal with them. Midfield teenager Ross also shows considerable promise, and Odhiambo is a tricky customer whose unorthodox style makes him hard to predict.

In other words, Butcher is not far from finding a successful blend which could produce a run of results to ensure safety from the threat of relegation. Given their small squad, of course, a few injuries or suspensions could instead suddenly see Caley Thistle look alarmingly threadbare.

Jefferies has a larger number of players with whom to work than his Inverness counterpart, but the way in which he has dealt with his own enforced absences is still very much to his credit. As the manager looks to build on this encouraging beginning to the campaign, the factor which could determine precisely how well Hearts fare this season is the way in which he juggles his resources once the treatment table is not being so heavily used.

The form here of Templeton and to a lesser extent Suso, and the imminent return of Andrew Driver, suggest Jefferies would be disrupting the balance of his team if he opted to play Skacel in a wide role. In any case, the injury to Black may force his hand: the initial prognosis is that the former Caley Thistle player has not broken anything, but if he is out for a couple of weeks nonetheless, that could lead to the Czech international playing in an advanced central- midfield role. If Skacel is anywhere near as effective as he was during his first spell as a Hearts player, the damage he and Kyle could do together would be considerable.

Taken from the Scotsman

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