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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Mike Tumilty
5 of 007 Kevin Kyle pen 63 ;Ryan Stevenson 94 L SPL A

St Johnstone 0-2 Hearts: JJ's men on a jam roll
Published Date: 15 November 2010
LIFE just gets better and better for Hearts. Third in the league, five wins from six outings, Hibernian and Celtic both beaten inside a week, clean sheets galore, players recalled to the Scotland squad, a new three-year contract for the captain and £10 million wiped from the club's debt.
It's been a fairly momentous week at Tynecastle, rounded off by Saturday's precious victory over St Johnstone. This was a game previous Hearts teams might have lost or drawn due to lack of belief or application. But not now. Team spirit is soaring and consequently Hearts are surfing the crest of a wave which shows no sign of petering out.

This was their third successive 2-0 victory following the Edinburgh derby and Wednesday's encounter with Celtic. It completed a week bursting with positivity after Marius Zaliukas finally signed a new contract, Kevin Kyle was named in the Scotland squad and £10m was erased from club debt due to Ukio Bankas Investment Group's debt-for-equity exchange.

Even comments by director Sergejus Fedotovas stating that UBIG owner Vladimir Romanov may consider selling his shareholding in the club cannot dampen the feelgood factor. Yet the most important constant for any club remains results on the park, an area where Hearts are excelling at present.

Parts of the McDiarmid Park pitch resembled an overused speedway track on Saturday due to excessive rain, but that did not deter the visitors. They adjusted their gameplan accordingly, employed more direct passing than usual, and ultimately reaped the reward.

That said, it was a skilful dribble by David Templeton which initiated a breaking of the deadlock on 63 minutes. The winger showed fine ball control to drift away from Danny Grainger and head across the field towards the left flank. He was cynically taken out 20 yards from goal by Alan Maybury, the former Hearts defender, and referee Mike Tumilty awarded a free-kick.

Templeton arced the dead ball goalwards and, after it struck the defensive wall, Tumilty awarded a penalty for handball against Jamie Adams. St Johnstone protested vociferously but Kevin Kyle did not stop to pontificate. He rammed the ball high to Enckelman's right from 12 yards to give Hearts a crucial advantage at a pivotal stage of the game.

Derek McInnes, the St Johnstone manager, accused Tumilty of wrongly awarding the penalty afterwards.

Adams maintained his arm was firmly by his side and that the decision changed the course of the match. St Johnstone had lost four consecutive games without scoring prior to Saturday so their frustration was perhaps understandable.

Hearts are getting greedy, though, and weren't prepared to settle for 1-0. Before Stevenson could bang the second beyond goalkeeper Peter Enckelman, Marian Kello produced the save of the match. Substitute Sam Parkin found himself unmarked 12 yards out to receive Peter MacDonald's pass but Kello tipped his shot over the crossbar.

St Johnstone continued pressing for parity and were ultimately hit by a clinical Hearts breakaway. The hosts appealed in vain for handball against the outstanding Adrian Mrowiec before Stevenson drilled a low finish under Enckelman from a lofted through pass by fellow substitute Calum Elliot.

"I said to the players that we needed the right head on for this game," said Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager. "We had two games with great atmosphere and good crowds (Hibernian and Celtic). There was a fantastic Hearts support in Perth, you can see what it means when you start winning but we knew the atmosphere wouldn't be what it was in our last two games.

"I felt sorry for the two teams, the pitch was terrible and the ball wasn't bouncing. It looked bad from the stand but it was even worse when you were on it. For us, it was always going to be about being professional and playing the way the pitch would make you play. I thought we did that better than St Johnstone.

"It needed a break for the first goal but I feel sorry for Derek McInnes. He felt aggrieved at the penalty but the referee could have played advantage at the free-kick beforehand as it was a great finish by Kyle if he'd let play go on.

"The result has finished off a great week. The players have done really well, we could have switched off on Saturday but that didn't happen because we battled away. I said at the start of the season it was about getting into the top six but a club like Hearts should be competing.

"There is a right good spirit now so we should be up there challenging. There's a long way to go and there will be setbacks, but we're on a good run and we've responded great since the Kilmarnock game. Hopefully that was a blip. We couldn't have had a better week than this."

By contrast, St Johnstone's miserable sequence of results continues and McInnes felt aggrieved at taking nothing from Saturday's encounter. "We have not beaten ourselves and we have not been beaten by anything Hearts have done, but by a referee's decision," he complained.

"It was a key decision and it has cost us because it was the wrong decision and we are frustrated by that. It's a mistake by the referee. Jamie Adams is at the end of the defensive wall and there's nothing he can do about it. His hands were by his side."

On a personal note, Kyle said he has just completed the best week of his entire life.

"It's been excellent. It started last Saturday," he explained. "I was up in Loch Lomond and got down on one knee in the middle of a restaurant and proposed to my girlfriend.

"Then we beat Hibs on the Sunday, Celtic on the Wednesday and then I scored and we beat St Johnstone. I also got called up to the Scotland squad during the middle of that. Her brother was playing for St Johnstone (Adams) and I think he gave away the penalty so maybe he was doing me a favour.

"This was a very different game to the last two. We had to battle and scrap. I thought the penalty was harsh but I'll take one every day of the week. I think we looked the more threatening and when you have got players like David Templeton and Stephen Elliott with the craft they have, it's just a matter of getting that opening. It was just a case of us biding our time."

Kyle now hopes the finest week of his career can help him atone for his worst experience in football when Scotland play the Faroe Islands at Pittodrie on Tuesday. The striker played in the 2-2 draw with the Faroes in 2002 and rates it as his lowest ebb. "I was surprised to get back in the squad," he said.

"Craig Levein obviously didn't go to the Kilmarnock and St Mirren games or I would have struggled to get in the Scotland Under-tens team. It will be good to face the Faroes again as the last time I played them was one of the lowest points of my career."

It must be hoped he does not endure further misery on Tuesday evening. If he does, a return to Riccarton on Wednesday will soon restore the smile to his face. Hearts' training ground must be the happiest in Scotland at the moment following an exhilarating last seven days.

Taken from the Scotsman

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