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Paulo Sergio nails his colours to mast

Published Date: 18 September 2011
By Andrew Smith
at Tynecastle
HEARTS manager Paolo Sergio has a new maroon cardigan. "I'm not a model," the Portuguese protested. "I bought it yesterday and liked the colour, the colour of my club."
How he is beginning to clothe his team is stylistically beginning to look a better fit. The Gorgie club are suddenly a mere place and a point from acceptability. That is how the Tynecastle faithful will see the fruits of their team's labours yesterday.

Inflicting a first away defeat on St Mirren, and in the process taking their home form to three wins out of four, was a good afternoon's work to move them up to fourth in the Scottish Premier League.

It is five places higher than St Mirren who were undone by a penalty and an own goal. If that doesn't make the win sound scintillating, Paulo Sergio's side, with Mehdi Taouil providing flashes of craft, ultimately had late opportunities to run-up a pretty convincing scoreline ahead of their Scottish Communities League Cup tie away to Ayr United.

"It was a victory with a good flavour," Sergio said of result that extends their unbeaten run to five games. "We were playing against a good team. We had to make runs and press them the way we did."

Hearts' only significant imperfection was in chance conversion. "It is a question of efficacy. With work we will improve our efficacy," added the manager.

Recently-recruited St Mirren centre-back Lias Haddad needs to improve his efficiency, certainly. The Dutch Moroccan was guilty of a daft leg-dangling challenge in the box to impede Marius Zaliukas three minutes from the interval. Jamie Hamill rammed in the resultant penalty after referee Charlie Richmond elected to spare Haddad - already booked for an earlier handball - from any further punishment.

"If it happened more central, he might have sent him off, but in my opinion it was a good decision from Charlie, he used his head well," said St Mirren manager Danny Lennon who credited his opponents for the "way they played round about us with one and two touch football" in the lead-up to the incident.

Any doubt over the outcome of the contest was ended with 22 minutes remaining when a whipped in centre from Danny Grainger, who had delivered such inviting crosses all day, was attacked by Ryan Stevenson and Stephen Elliott only for it to slide off the back of Lee Mair's head and into his own net. Hearts then took complete control. "They kept at us, kept the kettle boiling to get the second goal, to be fair," Lennon said.

St Mirren, he accepted, made little impression in front of their opponents' goal. They were so different from their hosts in that respect for much of the opening period. There was an element of the two sides cancelling one other out, that might have had something to do with both being set in 4-2-3-1 formations. A system that is fast becoming de rigeur in modern football, it made for a curious positional call by Lennon.

Gary Teale made his name as a winger, an attacker. It was therefore, bizarre to seem him shackled in a holding role alongside the efficient Jim Goodwin. And judging by the nipping at his manager Teale did during a break in play, he wasn't enthused about the switch. It was no surprise he was pushed further forward for final half hour. "We tried a few things today that didn't quite come off for us," Lennon admitted.

In terms of the opening stages, there wasn't an awful lot for any of the 12,572 fans to get enthused about. The Hearts support were threatening to become more than a little antsy, indeed, just before the penalty put them on their way. By the end of the encounter they may have had reason to feel antsy about Andy Webster and David Obua. Even by his own injury call-off standards, the Scotland defender surpassed himself when it came to fragility by withdrawing from the starting line-up shortly before kick-off. "He felt some pain and, talking with him, he was worried about after five or ten minutes coming to the changing room," Sergio explained. "He wasn't comfortable kicking the ball."

Obua, meanwhile, came down with cramp in the closing stages and simply walked to the side of the pitch and stood motionless for the final minute. His actions brought him abuse from a Hearts fan in the main stand, and a verbal altercation ensued, followed by a hand gesture towards his critic by the Ugandan. "When he stopped there (at the side of the pitch] I think the fan was surprised; I was surprised," the Hearts manager said. "But it was only for the last 30 seconds. Somebody talked to him, I don't think with respect, but it was not a problem."

Hearts: Macdonald, Hamill, Mrowiec, Zaliukas, Grainger, Black (87), Jonsson, Stevenson, Taouil (81), Obua,
Elliott (84).
Subs used: Templeton (81), Sutton (84), Robinson (87).

St Mirren: Samson, van Zanten (74), Haddad, Mair, Tesslaar, Goodwin, Teale, Thomson, McGowan (57), Hasselbaink (57), Thompson.
Subs used: McKee (57), McLean (57), McShane (74).

Referee: C Richmond.
Attendance: 12,572

Taken from the Scotsman

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