London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Calum Murray
[S Naismith 58]
14 of 019 David Obua 16L SPL A

Strong performance secures well-earned point but

Published Date: 25 July 2011
IF Hearts sounded unappreciative it was entirely understandable. They strode out of Ibrox encouraged by a point on the season's opening day. Nagging frustration was evident, though, due to the wasted first-half chances which could have put them out of sight of Rangers by half-time.
The season's opening match indicated the potential of the Edinburgh club to challenge the Old Firm. In addition to David Obua's expertly headed opener, glaring chances were passed up by the Ugandan and David Templeton. Steven Naismith equalised during the predictable but hardly incessant second-half Rangers onslaught, leaving Hearts to ponder what might have been against the SPL champions.

"I said to the players at half-time it was as good a performance as we've had here," said Jim Jefferies, the visiting manager.

"We won 3-0 here once and it could have been 3-0 again. Allan McGregor had a couple of good saves.

"We were playing well, the shape was good and we were passing the ball well.

"We lost David Templeton (early in the second half) with a head knock and a bit of double vision. We knew Rangers would up their game and they had a couple of chances before they scored.

"After that, not so much. The good thing was we didn't feel sorry for ourselves. We kept plugging away and restricted them.

"It's not just the point that pleases me, it's the performance. If you can go to Ibrox and play as well as that you should be encouraged.

"It's been a difficult pre- season because it's been so short. We didn't know what round of Europe we were going to be in. No disrespect but we could have done with tougher friendly games and Saturday was a concern. But it didn't need to be a concern because we were fine, and remember Jamie Hamill, Kevin Kyle and Andrew Driver have still to come back."

That Hearts returned to Edinburgh slightly aggrieved at not winning away to Rangers illustrates the ambition within Tynecastle following last season's third-place finish. They totally dominated the first period, displaying intelligence on the ball and resilience in defence. Jefferies is determined for his players to stay grounded, though.

"I'm not looking into anything league-wise," he continued.

"After eight or ten games you see what you need to do. I told the players at half-time that they'd never have a better chance to win at Ibrox. We lost there before because it's not an easy place to come.

"I was really pleased, even in the second half when Rangers upped it.

We had to pull David Obua back deeper and in the first half he was finding Templeton a lot."

Obua rose virtually unchallenged to head Danny Grainger's corner outwith McGregor's reach after 16 minutes. Eight minutes previously, Andy Webster had asked to be withdrawn due to the groin complaint which forced him off in last week's friendly with Royal Antwerp. Hearts refused to be unsettled, though.

Templeton's direct running began causing serious consternation within the home defence. He scampered through two challenges to shoot after 25 minutes, denied only by McGregor's shins. The winger then slid a through ball for Obua to eyeball McGregor, however the Ugandan hit the side-netting from around ten yards.

After Davis and Naismith had attempts at goal, Naismith glanced Sasa Papac's cross into the corner of the Hearts net to restore a modicum of calm amongst the Ibrox natives. Papac was selected at left-back ahead of Lee Wallace, the £1.5?million signing from Hearts who watched the entire 90 minutes from the substitutes' bench. But after scoring, the expected cavalry charge from the hosts never quite materialised.

"It was a disappointing first half but give Hearts credit for the way they played," said Ally McCoist, making his competitive debut as Rangers manager. "We didn't get going and gave the ball away too much. The main problem was we let Templeton turn with the ball and get running. You don't do that with good players. We changed it at half-time and no do but we were better in the second half.

"Getting the equaliser, you want to go and win the game. As disappointed as I was with the first half, I was pleased with reaction in the second half. We could have nicked the game although that might have been an injustice after the way we played in the first half. I'm not a fan of the early start this year but I wouldn't put that down as a reason for us starting the game poorly.

"We got a 1-1 draw against a good side, a lot of people's favourites to finish third in the league at least."

The challenge facing Hearts is to better last season's third place, whilst Rangers are going for their fourth consecutive SPL title in McCoist's first season in charge. On Saturday's evidence, the champions looked weaker than previous years. But that could be attributed to Hearts' strength, which looks capable of posing problems for both halves of the Old Firm.

Taken from the Scotsman

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