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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Paul Forsyth auth-> Steve O'Reilly
7 of 014 Stephen Elliott 22 ;Stephen Elliott 46L SPL A

Easy does it as Hearts roll on

Published Date: 13 February 2011
By Paul Forsyth
at New Douglas Park

Hamilton 0 Hearts 2 Elliott 22,46

JIM Jefferies' only fear about giving a full debut to Andy Webster was that no amount of bounce games and training would prepare him for a competitive match. The Hearts manager needn't have worried. His new signing played from the start yesterday, and was hardly required to break sweat in a win that came all too easily for the Edinburgh side.

If Hearts didn't exactly scale the heights, it was because they didn't have to. Against a side devoid of ambition and, by the look of it, resigned to relegation, they had a goal in each half by Stephen Elliott to thank for a return to winning ways. With Kilmarnock losing, as routine a win as Hearts are likely to enjoy all season enabled them to consolidate their position in third place.

Webster, in his second spell with Hearts after making only two appearances for Rangers this season, showed no sign of rustiness. "Andy looked as if he had never been away," said Jefferies. "He was in the right positions all the time, headed everything that had to be headed. You can see his quality on the ball. He never panics, he passes it. The way they played suited him because he got on the ball."

The way Hamilton played didn't suit the neutral. They started with nine men behind the ball, happily granted their opponents possession, and didn't change when they fell a goal behind. Only when Hearts scored a second did they discover a sense of adventure, but the game was dead by then. "The first half was a strange situation," said Jefferies. "I don't think I've been involved in a game in the SPL where we've had so much possession."

Without a win at home all season, Hamilton are now five points behind second-bottom St Mirren, albeit with a game in hand. No wonder their supporters have been showing their frustration lately, not so much with results as the team's negativity. Billy Reid, their manager, had been critical of the fans last week, although he claimed in his programme notes to have been misquoted. In the same breath, he was keen to stress that he stood by the comments, which was almost as confusing as their opponents' formation yesterday.

When Kevin Kyle is out injured, the rest of Hearts' square pegs are asked to fit into all manner of round holes. Eggert Jonsson was pushed unusually far forward, Rudi Skacel supported Elliott up front, and a curious void on the left of midfield had to be filled by Lee Wallace, the Hearts full-back. That it seemed to work was a testament to their flexibility.

Wallace, in fact, was the architect of their opener, bursting into the channel and flicking a cross to the front post.

Elliott made Mark McLaughlin look sluggish by reaching the ball first and twisting his neck so that it found the top right-hand corner.

When Wallace has the freedom of the flank, you wonder how Hearts did so well without him earlier in the season. In truth, he had little option but to amble forward here, for there was nothing to occupy him behind. Accies seemed to be more interested in avoiding defeat than inflicting one, with a 5-4-1 formation in which there was a yawning gap between the four and the one. Mickael Antoine-Curier, their lone striker, was a forlorn figure for much of this one.

All in all, not a bad way for Webster to re-acquaint himself with the club he left five years ago. Freed by Rangers last week, the central defender who was so impressive during a loan period at Dundee United last season was given an immediate start at the expense of Ismael Bouzid. Although there was the odd boo from Hearts fans who remember the controversy surrounding his departure in 2006, most appeared to let bygones be bygones. The play was all at the other end, where Jonsson headed over, Craig Thomson shot narrowly wide, and Ruben Palazuelos came close with a curved shot from the edge of the box. With the Hearts goalkeeper, Marian Kello, all but dozing off, the Accies fans once again voiced their concerns when the players departed at half-time.

Reid, it seemed, was no more satisfied. A double substitution spared Ziggy Gordon, their young full-back, another half at the mercy of Wallace, but, within 40 seconds of the restart, the home side were two down. The frustration for Hamilton fans was that Hearts didn't even have to work for it.

Skacel's corner picked out Marius Zaliukas, whose weak header from ten yards was deflected in by Elliott. "The second goal was so poor," said Reid. "It is a floated corner into the box and a free header. You can't win matches in the SPL if you defend like that."

The trouble with Hamilton is that, when a deficit requires them to change tack, they don't have the resources to oblige. Reid did his usual, bringing on the Paixao twins, complete with matching snoods and gloves and, although it made a difference, there was no reward. Flavio's free kick to the far post gave Hamilton their first attempt on target, a header by David Elebert, which Kello easily saved. And there was a shot by Jim McAlister, also straight at the goalkeeper.

Elliot, though, was after his hat-trick. And it nearly came when Suso surged through the middle and picked out Skacel, who laid the ball back to Hearts' only orthodox striker.

From just outside the box, he smacked a rising shot that was tipped over by Tomas Cerny.


Gordon (46)
Buchanan (46)
Imrie (54)

Subs used

Carrington (46)
F Paixao (46)
M Paixao (54)


C Thomson (70)
Black (81)

Subs used

Templeton 70
Mrowiec 81


Stephen Elliott (Hearts)

Having spent much of the season wide on the right, showed scoring instincts.


Even Jim Jefferies seemed to be taken aback by Hamilton's defensive strategy.

Referee: S O'Reilly. Attendance: 2,876

Taken from the Scotsman

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