London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2010-11--> All for 20110129
<-Page <-Team Sat 29 Jan 2011 Hearts 1 St Johnstone 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Crawford Allan
5 of 009 Rudi Skacel 2L SPL H

Sinners to Saints as Rangers await

Published Date: 31 January 2011
THERE were enough questions asked of Hearts to fill a bumper-size quiz book following Wednesday's defeat to Celtic. Had the Tynecastle bubble burst? Was the title challenge over? Could Jim Jefferies and his players respond after a 4-0 demolition?
It would be fair to assume that the arrival of Vladimir Romanov in Edinburgh also intensified any nerves ahead of kick-off against St Johnstone.

As it transpired, the response was definitive. All queries answered, albeit after a second half which ended nervously when it should have been comfortable. Hearts dominated for 75 minutes and controlled a contest which was expected to be significantly more taxing. That they only scored once - through Rudi Skacel after three minutes - led to slight consternation during the closing stages as St Johnstone pressed for parity. Nonetheless, their gutsy reaction to the naysayers ultimately secured three deserved points.

The victory took Hearts to within two points of second-placed Rangers ahead of their midweek trip to Ibrox and reduced the gap to Celtic at the top of the SPL to seven points. It was a much-needed reaction following events in the east end of Glasgow, which prompted many to declare that the recent prospering in Gorgie was over.

Andy Driver's return to first-team duty following injury was a welcome bonus. He made his first outing of the season as a substitute 20 minutes from full-time after Jefferies had made five alterations to the team which started at Parkhead. Craig Thomson, Suso, Ruben Palazuelos, Gary Glen and David Obua all returned and the freshness, according to the St Johnstone manager Derek McInnes, accorded Hearts a crucial advantage in the early stages and proved decisive in the final outcome.

Skacel stroked Thomson's low cross into the St Johnstone net as the home side began the day with a pace and power approach. They hemmed their guests in almost for the entire first half, and the control only let up during the final 15 minutes as St Johnstone pursued an equaliser. It didn't arrive, Hearts' resolve standing up to the challenge, and a welcome victory was secured ahead of Wednesday's important trip to Ibrox.

"We just couldn't kill them off," said Jefferies of the second half pressure. "We had a lot of players back in the team as we freshened up.

We got off to a great start and we had asked them to start well because this was a massive game for us after Wednesday.

"In the first half we were dominant and should have been further ahead. A chance fell to Rudi early in the second half, if t hat goes in it's all over and we'd have been more comfortable.

"At 1-0 up with 15 minutes to go you don't want to throw it away.

"We were excellent for 75 minutes, then for the last 15 they punted balls in and hoped something would fall for them. Marian Kello hasn't had a save to make, our defenders put their bodies in front of things and we showed grit and determination not to lose a goal.

"We now have only one defeat in 13 games, the gap between us and the teams behind us is now 15 points so we're on track for third place. This takes us closer. We need to just make sure we keep grinding out results. Everybody wrote us off after Wednesday, they can do that if they like.

"We never said what we were going to do, we're only trying to have a good season." Romanov's attendance helped their case, not for the first time.

The majority shareholder's visits to Tynecastle are somewhat sporadic now compared with the early days of his stewardship, but whenever he does venture across the Baltic Sea he seems to carry something of a lucky charm with him. Again, his presence coincided with a Hearts victory.

"I think there was a bit of mischief-making in the papers that he was here to grill us about Wednesday's result," said Jefferies. "He speaks to the players and he speaks to me, he's only over to talk about things in general.

"We all wanted to know what happened on Wednesday. It was important to show we had the character to bounce back against a team that has always shown themselves hard to beat. We're delighted to get three points."

The scoreline would have been more convincing had the unmarked Suso controlled a cross with his foot rather than his knee shortly after the opening goal, the ball bouncing harmlessly away from the Spaniard.

"Skacel's volley from Lee Wallace's cross early in the second half might also have nestled in the St Johnstone net except it was struck straight at Peter Enckelman, the St Johnstone goalkeeper.

McInnes praised Hearts for their application and cited their positive opening as they key to victory. "I thought Hearts would start well and they did," he said. "On their first-half performance they deserved the three points because it was a good display. The goal we lost was disappointing, we shouldn't be losing goals like that and we haven't been losing goals like that recently. I shoulder a lot of responsibility for the team. You saw the Hearts team sheet and how much they freshened it up after Wednesday. They had a strong bench and in hindsight I should have freshened our team up a bit more.

"The players have been on a fantastic run and I can't fault them. It's been the same boys week in week out so maybe I should have changed it.

We are disappointed to lose but I recognise Hearts played well. I feared going in 2-0 down so I made two changes before half-time. The changes were made to get a wee reaction before the break. I think we were possibly the better side in the second half."

St Johnstone had suffered only one defeat in nine games prior to Saturday and hadn't lost at Tynecastle since 2001, which undoubtedly heightens the significance of Hearts' achievement. They can now prepare for Rangers knowing Saturday's efforts silenced many who seemed to wallow in their downfall the previous week.

Taken from the Scotsman

<-Page <-Team Sat 29 Jan 2011 Hearts 1 St Johnstone 0 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © |