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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Martin Dempster auth-> Mike Tumilty
7 of 008 David Templeton 5 ;Rudi Skacel 9 ;Stephen Elliott 51 ;Rudi Skacel 58 ;Arvydas Novikovas 78L SPL H

Hearts' high five flattens sorry dons

Published Date: 13 December 2010
PICKING a Hearts man of the match at the moment is no easy task, the recipients - everything these days in the commercial world appears as though it has to be done at least twice - being Rudi Skacel and Stephen Elliott.
And worthy winners they were, too, the former helping himself to a double as Hearts recorded a fifth successive victory and the latter not only getting in on the scoring act as well but also putting in one hell of a shift during a profitable aftern oon for Jim Jefferies' side.

More often that not, flair players like Skacel and Elliott - David Templeton, too - will walk away from games cradling a bottle of bubbly, their contributions in the opposition box being the moments that the majority of people remember when it comes to handing out such awards as well as during those after-match discussions down the pub.

That's fair enough, of course, because goals win games but, as Hearts enjoy their ride on the crest of a wave at the moment - they've picked up five points more than leaders Rangers over the course of the last five SPL games for both sides - there's no doubt whatsoever that the efforts of others in the team are proving just as valuable.

It's certainly no coincidence that Hearts' surge up the table has coincided with the return of Marius Zaliukas to the side, the class and composure of the Lithuanian shining like a beacon during a run that has seen the Tynecastle club not only win seven of their last eight games but, impressively, keep clean sheets in all of those victories.

The odd moment of slackness apart, Ismael Bouzid is also looking a better player again with Zaliukas at his side, while the two full-backs, Eggert Jonsson and Ruben Palazuelos, are both doing a splendid job, defensively and offensively, as the latter showed with an excellent cross at the end of a sweeping move for Elliott's headed goal on Saturday.

As for the engine room, that is currently ticking over nicely thanks to the perfect blend of Skacel's skill, Templeton's trickery and the donkey work being carried out by Ian Black and Adrian Mrowiec, the efforts of the latter two being every bit as important as that early opening goal and the second that followed from Skacel soon afterwards.

Black possesses those terrier-like qualities that every manager loves to see from the sidelines, a cause never likely to be a lost one in his eyes, while Mrowiec showed once again at the weekend what an important job he's doing for his team right now.

His name is unlikely to crop up too often in those pub discussions because he doesn't do anything too flashy and rarely gets into the opposition box, though he did on one occasion in this game and felt he should have had a penalty for the challenge that sent him sprawling.

In short, Mrowiec is a classic spoiler, the man who breaks up play, helps get possession of the ball for his side so they can give it to the likes of the dangerous Templeton and Skacel or, alternatively, provide service for big Kevin Kyle.

Stefano Salvatori did a similar job for Jefferies first time around at Hearts and the fourth goal on Saturday was a classic example of what Mrowiec does for the current team, the Pole breaking up an Aberdeen attack midway inside his own half, surging forward into the right-wing position and sending over a great low cross that was fired back across the face of the goal by Templeton to allow Skacel to slide it home.

On a day when his side scored five goals, Kyle will probably have been disappointed not to get on the scoresheet but he, too, played his part by putting in a shift that could just as easily have made him a man of the match contender. In fact, that applied to everyone except Marian Kello and that's only because the Slovakian hardly had anything to do on this occasion.

Yes, of course, that was partly down to Aberdeen being totally inept but don't for one minute let that take anything away from Hearts, who in less than a year have been transformed from a bunch of players who took the park appearing as a team in all but name but are now playing and fighting as one and, what's more, enjoying themselves, too.

"There wasn't a single player who let us down or wasn't as good as anyone else - everybody played their part and when that's the case the job is easy," admitted Jefferies after his side's latest victory.

"It is right that certain players are getting the plaudits because they were outstanding, providing the cutting edge and scoring the goals.

"But what epitomised Hearts in this game is when we didn't have the ball and I thought Adrian Mrowiec set the tone. He does what he is good at and deserved to be praised along with so many others.

"Stephen Elliott also put in a great shift in a position he'd probably prefer not to be playing in and, as a goalscorer, it was great to see him get a goal as that will help keep his confidence up."

Hearts headed into this game full of confidence yet knew it could prove as slippy a proposition as some of the streets around Tynecastle, an enforced two-week break due to the weather raising a question mark over whether or not they'd be able to keep their run going and a change of manager also being expected to make Aberdeen tougher nuts to crack than they have been of late.

Both of those questions were answered within the opening ten minutes, Templeton opening the scoring from down on his backside in the six-yard box with a shot that was definitely over the line when it hit Chris Maguire and then turning provider with a run and cross that was finished with aplomb by Skacel.

In truth, that was game over, the only real surprise being that it took Hearts until six minutes into the second-half to add a third through Elliot before Skacel - boy, does he love that adulation from the stands - got in on the act again and substitute Arvydas Novikovas rounded off the scoring with a peach of a strike after cutting in from the left flank.

"I said to these players that ten days ago this game might have been a banker but circumstances had changed," added Jefferies.

"One of those was the change of a manager at Aberdeen and, though we said to the players that didn't make them (the visitors] a better team, it did mean their application and effort would probably be better.

"I heard Paul (Hartley] saying as they went out before the game that Aberdeen's season started here and he's right.

What they did not bank on was that they ran into a Hearts side who were well aware of what to expect and they carried that on to the pitch.

"I said if we matched their application and attitude, it would be down to ability and we feel we had more of that.

"We did all the right things to stop them getting going and, at the end of the day, I thought we could have had one or two more."

This win saw Hearts close the gap on second-placed Celtic to six points, raising hope that the Old Firm may not enjoy the two-horse race for the title that looked on the cards at the end of the first quarter of the campaign.

Taken from the Scotsman

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