London Hearts Supporters Club

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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth None auth-> Steve O'Reilly
8 of 014 Stephen Elliott 22 ;Stephen Elliott 46L SPL A

Alarm bells tolling

13 Feb 2011

If this victory was straightforward enough for Hearts, it seemed to reveal something more significant about the team they brushed aside with such casual intent.

Hamilton exposed only the sense that their season has been reduced to a growing disquiet; to the realisation, even, that hope might soon be an empty notion.

The visitors were so untroubled that Andy Webster was able to come straight into the starting line-up and fit in with an effortless comfort, and Stephen Elliot could be left on his own up front yet still forage two goals for himself. Hamilton were bereft, and the concern now will be if this ennui can be dispersed before the season becomes a lost cause.

The opening goal seemed like confirmation of the terrible angst held within the home crowd, but also the sense of alarm that shaped Hamilton's play. The two full-backs were so cautious that the defence became a rigid back five, as if sheer weight of numbers might be enough to suppress their fretfulness.

Hamilton performed as though trying to survive this encounter; the unease became entrenched, so that a tension came to surround this game, like waiting for a calamity. It arrived in the 22nd minute, and the glaring simplicity of the goal felt like a further rebuke.

From high up on the left flank – where he was so often allowed to wander into – Lee Wallace delivered a cross that stirred the predatory instincts of Stephen Elliot; the striker stole in front of Mark McLaughlin and deftly steered a header beyond Tomas Cerny.

"That's our Achilles heel," said Billy Reid. "We haven't defended our box well this season. I take responsibility for the way we set up, but with our defending we didn't give ourselves a chance."

Hearts were eager, there was a sprightliness to their determination; Hamilton were sullen, reduced to a grim despair. The players, and the home crowd, seemed acutely aware of the peril of their situation.

Indeed, Hamilton remained so subdued that they were greeted by a grumble of disdain as they left the pitch at the interval. David Elebert was irked enough to urge the fans to instead be supportive. What has become ingrained, though, is a bleak misgiving.

"When you're losing games at home, you expect that," Reid said. "The supporters here are pretty fair to us."

Reid sought to restore some purpose to his side by switching to 4-3-3 and bringing on Flavio Paixao and Mark Carrington. Yet before the game had even recovered any momentum, Hearts added a second, and again it was conceded without any great resistance. From Skacel's corner, Marius Zaliukas sent a header goalwards and the ball brushed off Elliot and into the net.

A third substitution, when Dougie Imrie was forced off injured, saw Marco Paixao join his brother on the field and the two Portuguese attackers brought a sense of urgency to the home side's play. From Flavio Paixao's free kick, Elebert headed straight at Marian Kello.

Emboldened, Jim McAlister emerged from the periphery to cut infield and hit a fierce shot that Kello held carefully. This spirit caused Hearts to be more circumspect. Elliot almost claimed his hat-trick, after Suso Santana and Rudi Skacel broke upfield on a counter-attack, but his effort was tipped over.

"We had so much possession in the first half," said Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager. "At half-time, we said a second goal would open them up. But we got sloppy in the last 20 minutes."

Taken from the Herald

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