London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 18 Dec 2010 Hearts 1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Daily Record ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth None auth-> Brian Winter
[G Munro 17]
7 of 009 Kevin Kyle pen 25L SPL H

SPL: Hearts 1 Inverness CT 1

Dec 20 2010 By David McCarthy

TERRY BUTCHER came in and admitted his team had been battered. But they were unbowed and are now unbeaten in 19 away games stretching back to November 28, 2009. Inverness Caley Thistle added Tynecastle to a list of grounds that include Ibrox and Celtic Park in that astonishing run that has straddled the First Division and SPL with equal aplomb.

ICT - maybe it stands for Inspired Club Travelling.

Butcher's team love being on the road and the manager has built a team and a system perfectly suited to soaking up pressure and hitting opponents with quick, incisive counter punches.

It has been enough to take them fourth in the top flight and although they were hanging on like a punch-drunk boxer at the end, they did not hit the canvas.

And Hearts threw everything but the dugouts at them in search of the goal that would have taken them level with Celtic in second place.

Their boss Jim Jefferies, arguably the most difficult to please manager in the country, could do nothing but praise his players for their level of performance and bemoan the fact they just couldn't get the ball in the net during a second period where they set up camp inside the Caley Thistle half.

But the visitors chased everything, threw their bodies in front of shots and rode their luck at times. If ever a team was built in the image of their manager it is this one. Hell, Ross Tokely even took to swathing his head in bandages, a la his gaffer in an England shirt, after coming off second best in an aerial challenge with Kevin Kyle.

The Inverness fans loved it. Cries of 'there's only two Terry Butchers' rang out from their end of the ground.

Tokely doesn't have anything remotely approaching the quality Butcher had in his pomp but he's a big, hard defender and alongside him, another unsung journeyman just goes about his business quietly and efficiently.

Grant Munro, Inverness-born and bred, is homing in on his 300th appearance stretching 12 years and he knows his role so well he could probably play it in his sleep.

The 30-year-old even managed to get forward to nod his team into a 17th-minute lead at the weekend but for the remainder of the game he worked manfully to try to contain the massive threat that Kyle possessed.

The big striker had a terrific afternoon, twice showing unbelievable control to pull the ball down from awkward angles to get shots away. His only goal, though, came from the spot after he'd headed down for Stephen Elliot to be upended by Ryan Esson just six yards from goal.

The penalty was stuck away with style and there was plenty of that from Hearts. David Templeton produced a scintillating turn and shot that smacked a post before the winger brought the house down with a fabulous back flick that released Elliot, who couldn't finish. If he had, it would have been goal-of-the-season material.

Hearts piled on the pressure in the second half. Shots flew across Esson's goal, most regularly from Rudi Skacel, but it was one of those days when the ball just would not cross the line.

And in injury time they might even have lost. Russell Duncan broke forward and shot when he could have passed left or right and Hearts would have been put to the sword.

That's why Jefferies was philosophical at the end. He could hardly cane his side not winning because they'd done everything but. He said: "I thought the team were outstanding today and did everything you could've asked of them apart from putting the ball in the net.

"It was just one of those days when it just wouldn't go in. As a manager you can't have any complaints about the way our team played - their attitude, will and determination to win the game.

"And it might have cost us when they broke away. I would probably have cut my throat if it had gone in because it would have been the biggest robbery or injustice.

"Terry knows they got a bit of a roasting but fair due to them, they stood firm and nothing went our way in front of goal.

"I thought it was one of our best home performances of the season and it just shows you when you're going as well as Inverness are away from home you have to get some luck on the way and they got loads of it today.

"There's nobody who will have given them a harder time of it than us in that second half."

Big Terry was just thrilled by the resilience his men had shown yet again. He and his assistant Maurice Malpas have 132 caps between them and they know a thing or two about the art of defending. They've imparted their knowledge well to a team of listeners.

Butcher said: "It's an incredible achievement for the players - 2010 undefeated away from home. That's a year plus now in the league.

"It's just marvellous. It's a wonderful achievement and they're just a special group of players, they really are."

The last time they lost on the road was at Partick Thistle en route to winning promotion last term and Butcher conceded his side were fortunate their record remained intact.

He added: "Hearts are a good side.

They've got good quality players. I thought Templeton was unbelievable.

"They put a lot of crosses into the box.

I thought we had to defend really well, lots of questions were asked about us but there is great spirit in the team.

"They did batter us and you've got to hold your hand up and say we were hanging on at the end. But we hung on.

"It was a tough match but we came through unscathed."

Jefferies and his No.2 Billy Brown - also a former centre-back/full-back combination - have 132 fewer caps between them than the Caley management duo but that hasn't stopped them becoming one of the most astute and experienced managerial teams in the country.

They've quickly assembled a team at Tynecastle that comfortably looks the best of the rest outwith the Old Firm. But they couldn't beat Caley Thistle at home.

Then again, who does?

Taken from the Daily Record

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