London Hearts Supporters Club

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Paulo Sergio <-auth auth-> William Collum
[S Robertson 24]
22 of 030 -----L SPL A

Sergio’s side unstinting in their efforts but it fails to pay

Chris Tait

19 Nov 2011

HEARTS cannot buy a moment’s respite right now.

An inability to pay their players on time – for the second straight month – is just one of a litany of financial concerns.

The most pertinent is owner Vladimir Romanov’s assertion that he wants to sell the club, something he is likely to find difficult to do given the exorbitant debt it has amassed.

This defeat by Dundee United will hardly have lifted the mood around Tynecastle, then.

Scott Robertson’s first-half header for the hosts might have consigned the Edinburgh club to their fourth consecutive match without a win – or a even a goal – yet far more disconcerting for the visitors is that they rarely looked like bringing that inauspicious sequence to an end.

Their commitment was never in question, nor should have been, regardless of whether their bank balances had been supplemented by their salaries. Hearts were dutiful in their efforts at Tannadice but all too often lacked composure when it mattered.

Fortunately for manager Paulo Sergio he is not short of options, as was made clear this week when it was revealed Hearts have 60 players on their books, albeit including members of the under-19 squad.

That is unlikely to be the case for too much longer, though, with a statement on the club’s official website confirming that all players will be up for sale in January. One of those who had begun to look like little more than a statistic was John Sutton.

The striker joined the club during the summer but made only his fifth start of the season yesterday and his first since August 13, when he scored twice against Aberdeen. Yet there were times at Tannadice when he will have felt just as lonely as he did during his time on the sidelines.

Deployed in a familiar lone striker’s role, Sutton failed to unnerve a United defence which has looked far from obdurate this season, this being only the home side’s second clean sheet in eight matches.

Robbie Neilson has been brought in an attempt to improve that record. The full-back made his debut against his former club after signing earlier this week and wasted little time in getting back into the rough and tumble of competitive football, flooring both Sutton and Ryan Stevenson early in the first half. Another robust challenge on the latter earned him a booking. It was as if he had never been away.

“He was blowing a bit in the first half as the pace of the game was really high, but he settled himself down,” said manager Peter Houston. “I think his experience helped us in the second half.”

Houston was understandably pleased with his side’s defensive efforts, but they were not particularly tested by Hearts. David Templeton cut inside to bend a shot past a post early on but it was a rare moment of concern. The United goalkeeper also swatted away an errant cross from Ryan McGowan and blocked a drive from Rudi Skacel, but both were routine interventions.

The hosts were seldom in danger of becoming prolific either, although Robertson’s goal was impressive, and not least as it was his first since 2008. The midfielder funnelled the ball out wide to Jon Daly, before diving to direct the striker’s cross past Marian Kello.

“It’s been far too long, even my mum was telling me I needed to score more,” Robertson said.

Sergio was stoic. His five-match touchline suspension for misconduct began yesterday and he grew increasingly agitated as the match began to ebb away from his side.

There was inevitable pressure on the United penalty area late on, yet it was to little avail. “We were maybe fortunate in the end and we had to dig deep,” Houston admitted. “We’ve been criticised for our defending of late but the boys all did well.”

Taken from the Herald

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