London Hearts Supporters Club

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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Moira Gordon auth-> Crawford Allan
4 of 009 Rudi Skacel 2L SPL H

Rudi skacel gives hearts quick pick-me-up

Published Date: 30 January 2011
By Moira Gordon
at Tynecastle
Hearts 1

Skacel 3

St Johnstone 0
LAST weekend Hearts waited until the dying stages of the match to nick the winner, yesterday they got the winner in the third minute. It was a perfect welcome for majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov who was watching from the stand and it takes them 15 points clear of Kilmarnock in fourth and to within two points of second-place Rangers, who they could now leapfrog should they triumph at Ibrox on Wednesday.

It was also a happy anniversary for Jim Jefferies. Exactly one year to the day since he returned to the Hearts hot-seat, this was a measure of how far the side have come in that time. Back, then securing a place in the top six was the aim. Now the comfortable gap they have already established between themselves and their nearest challengers for third place means they can set much loftier targets.

Hearts made a handful of changes to the starting line-up which tumbled to Celtic on Wednesday as they sought to get back to winning ways. And, while injured top scorer Kevin Kyle was still absent, Suso Santana made a welcome return.

But it was the introduction of Andrew Driver, making his first start since April, which received the largest ovation from the home support. Wednesday's defeat was Hearts' first in 12 league games, the only other loss since October coming at the hands of Derek McInnes' side in the Scottish Cup.

Hearts could not have wished for a better start. Setting a high tempo as well as the agenda, they countered from a poor Jody Morris corner. Marian Kello got it away early and Craig Thomson ate up space with a sprightly skirmish down the right flank before skelping in a cross and Rudi Skacel having timed to perfection his run from deep was clinical in dispatching his shot beyond Peter Enckelman.

That was in just the third minute and as the rest of the match elapsed, the fact that Hearts won was no shock, but the fact they failed to add to their goal tally did surprise.

"We asked them to start well. It was massive after what happened on Wednesday," said Jefferies. "There has been some mischief-making in the papers about (Romanov] wanting to know what happened on Wednesday - we all wanted to know what happened. But it was nice that while he was here we showed that we had the character to bounce back. In the first half we dominated and should have been up by more and then in the second half the chance falls to Rudi and, if that goes in, it's all over.

"But we got the three points and that's now just one (league] defeat in 13 games and we're back on track and we can go on another run."

So much was Hearts domination of that first half in particular that St Johnstone boss Derek McInnes was forced into an early reshuffling of his pack. With six minutes of the first half remaining he hooked Sam Parkin and Alan Maybury, throwing in young Steven May and Cleveland Taylor. By that stage Hearts should have already consolidated their lead but Santana's ninth-minute effort was more pass-back than shot on target, while Skacel had a long-range shot in the 17th minute and Maybury was fortunate Enckleman recovered after his passback caught the keeper cold. As the crosses were whipped in on a fairly regular basis, the pressure was eased by the keeper's ability to get out and collect so many of them.

Murray Davidson did attempt to remind everyone that the visitors were able to construct an attacking effort and after Parkin fed Craig, he played the ball to his fellow midfielder but the final shot went wide. Enckelman was the only man able to get to grips with what Hearts were throwing at the Perth side at that stage and, after another couple of scares, McInnes reacted to switch his personnel and his formation, sacrificing one striker for another body in midfield.

"Hearts deserved the three points on that first-half performance," said McInnes, adding that he accepted a large chunk of the blame. He said that seeing that Hearts had freshened up their side, he maybe should have rested a few of his players as well after a long slog of fixtures, and sought to rectify that with those two first-half substitutions. "I just wanted to try to spark a wee reaction and my big fear was that we could maybe go in at half-time 2-0 down."

They had gone into the game with a decent recent record of their own, suffering just one defeat in nine and having conceded just one goal in five fixtures they had been looking solid and resolute. That solidity seemed to have left them as they strurggled to match Hearts but they did regained some resolve after going behind.

Things were slightly more evenly balanced as the match went on and the visitors mustered the odd speculative shot from May, Peter MacDonald, and Cleveland Taylor, but the balls played into the area were more hopeful that hurtful.

And they weren't the only ones still seeking a goal. Besides that Skacel effort which came to him from a Wallace cut-back and should have been buried, Driver and Stephen Elliott combined on a couple of occasions as the minutes ticked down. One in particular excited the crowd as Driver showed his ability to run at defences, his mazy run completed with a cut-back for the Irishman but he was denied by a Steven Anderson tackle.

It was a brilliant rearguard action from the visitors but the damage had been done a long time before.


Santana (67)
Skacel (78)
Glen (67)

Subs used

S Elliott (67))
Driver (67)
Stevenson (78)


Maybury (39)
Samuel (73)
Parkin (39)

Subs used

Taylor (39)
May (39)
MacDonald (73)


Lee Wallace (Hearts)

In only his fourth match back from injury, the full-back was immense


Andrew Driver's return prompted a prolonged ovation from the Hearts fans.

Referee: C Allan. Attendance: 14,250

Taken from the Scotsman

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