London Hearts Supporters Club

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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Chris Tait auth-> Crawford Allan
9 of 009 Rudi Skacel 2L SPL H

Three points less valuable as sights are lowered

Chris Tait

31 Jan 2011

The true value of this win for Hearts is derived from their defeat by Celtic last week.

Had they been able to accrue a result similar to that which they enjoyed against Rangers a few days before – rather than the 4-0 drubbing they suffered – these points would hold a far greater significance.

Try to keep up. Imagine, if you will, Hearts had beaten Celtic. Admittedly, for those of you who were at Celtic Park this will take a good deal more effort than everyone else, but had they won the Edinburgh side would currently be one point above Rangers, albeit having played two more matches, and within four of Celtic. They would still be seen as relevant to the title race, and these pages would feature articles analysing their capacity to split the Old Firm or – heaven forefend – actually win the thing.

But Hearts didn’t win. They didn’t even come close and now they are back to strengthening their position in third place. Scottish football is as it should be; or rather it is back to how it always is.

Their trip to Ibrox on Wednesday night has also diminished in importance as there is a feeling that Hearts had to wheedle a result out of their trip to the other side of Glasgow to maintain their ambitions beyond finishing as best of the rest.

Jim Jefferies, Hearts’ manager, stated his side were back “competing” for third place following their win over St Johnstone – with whom he did not specify, but Kilmarnock are 15 points behind in fourth – and had always insisted, publicly at least, that had always been their target.

“We want to finish in third place and to qualify for Europe, although it will be good if we can stay close to Rangers,” said Ruben Pala-zuelos, the Hearts midfielder, toeing the party line. “But it is important to keep trying to win games and then we can see what happens in May.”

Still, there will be a sense of regret within the Hearts squad as they return to training this morning. Rudi Skacel’s early goal was enough to see off an impotent St Johnstone, but it could have meant so much more.

This is not particularly positive, though, and Hearts do have some cause to be optimistic, with Andy Driver coming on to make his first appearance since April last year. The winger had been out since undergoing knee surgery, while his return had been continually deferred due to a thigh problem. Driver looked a little rusty, but very nearly contributed to a second goal for his side when he slid a pass to Stephen Elliott, only for the striker to be robbed at the final moment.

What St Johnstone would have done to have Driver on their bench. Derek McInnes’ side were unable to offer anything of note in front of goal, with the manager opting to renovate his faltering attack before half-time. That brought an improvement, but no goals.

It has been a problem which McInnes has battled with all season, and only substitute Steven May’s snapshot called Marian Kello into action in the Hearts goal.

“When you’re chasing the game it is always harder,” conceded Liam Craig, the St Johnstone midfielder. “We knew a result would have moved us up a couple of places in the table, but we have a chance to put things right against Hamilton tomorrow.”

Taken from the Herald

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