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|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 05 Feb 2005 Hearts 2 Kilmarnock 2||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|John Robertson||<-auth||Paul Kiddie||auth->||John Rowbotham|
|[C Nish 25] ;[S Naismith 89]|
|15||of 022||Dennis Wyness 18 ;Lee Miller 45||SC||H|
Another late cup blow but this time Hearts are still standing
HEARTS were floored by a sucker punch for the second time in four days - but at least on this occasion they are still in the contest.
The Gorgie outfit were KO’d by Marc Fitzpatrick’s hammer blow in last week’s CIS Cup semi-final showdown against Motherwell, John Robertson’s men denied by the last kick of the ball in extra time.
It was a cruel ending for the Tynecastle side, who had to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and come out fighting in the Tennent’s Scottish Cup fourth-round clash against Kilmarnock on Saturday.
To their credit, the hosts showed few, if any, scars from their Easter Road heartbreak and had the weekend encounter been decided on points, the Jambos would have eased their way into tonight’s quarter-final draw.
However, super-sub Steven Naismith hit them where it hurt with a 90th-minute equaliser to ensure a rematch at Rugby Park in nine days.
It was another sickener for Hearts, who came up against an inspired goalkeeper in the form of Alan Combe.
Robertson insisted his players only had themselves to blame for not finishing off their opponents at the first time of asking. And while that may well have been the case, the Kilmarnock shot-stopper played a significant part in frustrating the home side with a series of high-class saves.
Watched by Scotland boss Walter Smith, the former Dundee United No.1 did his chances of a recall to the international set-up no harm whatsoever with an outstanding performance between the sticks. "It was another sore one for us to take because we lost the goal so late," said Robertson.
"We should have had the game wrapped up with the chances we created, especially in the first half.
"I thought it was a good game and we could have been three or four up by half-time."
There was always a concern that the home side may suffer some kind of reaction to the manner of their CIS Cup exit but any worries which may have been hanging over the Gorgie faithful after the events of the previous Tuesday evening were quickly dispelled after just 16 minutes.
The inventive Salius Mikoliunas and Robbie Neilson combined well down the right, the full-back picked out Dennis Wyness with an excellent cross and the striker directed his header wide of Combe into the bottom right-hand corner of the net from nine yards. Combe produced the first of many good stops two minutes later when he palmed away Paul Hartley’s free-kick.
Moments later and Hearts came within inches of making their superiority tell. Mikoliunas found Wyness in the box and his curling left-foot effort beat Combe but rebounded off the keeper’s right-hand post. The ball struck the grounded keeper on the back and just as Lee Miller charged in to knock the ball home, Combe had the agility and presence of mind to back-heel it away from danger.
The home fans had been giving Allan Johnston pelters from the start but the former Tynecastle winger exacted sweet revenge when he set up his side’s equaliser. Skipping past debutant Lee Wallace, his cross from the right found its way into Hearts’ six-yard box and Colin Nish, who had just re-entered the field of play after treatment to an injured hand, made the most of a hesitant defence to head home. However, the manner of Nish’s return incensed Robertson, who questioned the role of referee John Rowbotham.
He said: "Yet another bizarre refereeing decision led to Killie’s first equaliser.
"They were attacking down the right and our defenders were concentrating on that. Yet the referee waves on Colin Nish, who had been off getting treatment, and he arrives on the blind side of everybody to score and nobody knew he was on the park.
"Mr Rowbotham claimed he wasn’t interfering with play as Kilmarnock were attacking down the other side but to run 30 yards straight into the box and score is a bit bizarre to say the least."
Stephen Simmons then tested Combe from the edge of the box and then Jamie McAllister, who appeared more comfortable having been moved further up the pitch from the left-back slot he has filled with varying degrees of success in recent weeks, forced two saves from the Killie keeper with powerful shots from distance.
There was a scare for the hosts four minutes from the break when Andy Webster was forced to boot the ball off his line following a goalmouth scramble and just when it seemed the teams would go in on level terms, the Jambos moved ahead with a spectacular strike from Lee Miller.
The all-action Hartley was the creator, the midfielder racing fully 50 yards before slotting the ball into the path of the recent loan signing who sent an unstoppable shot screaming past Combe.
David Lilley had a good chance to square the contest shortly after the restart but headed over from Peter Leven’s corner when in an excellent position.
Combe then demonstrated his class yet again when he dived to his right to keep out Hartley’s angled shot after the midfielder had been sent clear of the Kilmarnock defence by an exquisite pass from Mikoliunas and the keeper was alert five minutes later to turn behind Wyness’ near-post volley.
Just as the home fans started to cast their thoughts towards possible quarter-final opponents, Hearts were hit by another cruel blow as the game moved into stoppage time.
Killie were awarded a free-kick after substitute Mark Burchill was flagged offside and as the ball dropped into the Hearts box, Kris Boyd somehow got between Steven Pressley and Webster to flick it into the path of Naismith, who smashed a half-volley past Craig Gordon.
Robertson was quick to highlight what he maintained was a second dubious decision at the visitors’ late leveller but in truth a place in the last eight should have already been secured.
"At their second equaliser, everybody in the ground could see that Mark Burchill wasn’t offside but the linesman claimed he was offside, was coming back and ran through again, which is completely wrong. "That cost us but it is pointless at times going on about it as they just make up their own decisions.
"It wasn’t just me, 9000 other people in the stadium could see Mark Burchill wasn’t offside but the explanation we were given seems strange.
"The linesman got it wrong and it has cost us a place in the next round, although we have another chance at Rugby Park.
"It was tough to take but the referees are well protected and there is nothing we can do."
He added: "Jim [Jefferies] and Billy [Brown] threw everything forward to try to get an equaliser and in the end got their reward. We had chances to blow them away but once again it is stuff outwith our control which has decided a match."
SHOTS ON TARGET
SHOTS OFF TARGET
PAUL KIDDIE'S STAR MAN
There is never a shortage of talking points when JOHN ROWBOTHAM is in the middle and Saturday was no different. He also got carried away with his cards, taking six names and in a cup tie which was never over-physical.
It was going to take something special to beat an in-form Alan Combe and LEE MILLER’S thunderbolt on the stroke of half-time certainly fell into that category.
ALAN COMBE was inspired against Hearts and made a string of good stops to keep the Jambos at bay. His second half save from Paul Hartley was up there with the best of the afternoon and kept Kilmarnock in the cup.
The supporters' view
Mark Jackson, Morningside: "We played really well in the first half. Mikoliunas was the man of the match."
Gary Taylor, Dalry: "We played well enough in the first half but let it slip after the break. Dennis Wyness had an outstanding game."
Darren Cunningham, Penicuik: "The finishing for the goals was excellent. Miller and Wyness linked up well up front. I don’t fancy us in the replay."
Colin Wilson, Stockbridge: "The goal just before half-time was crucial, it turned the match in our favour but in the end we bottled it. The referee was abysmal."
Scott Hogg, Millerhill: "We played some very nice football in spells. We should have won the game."
Kevin Blackwood, Gorgie: "We dominated for long periods and deserved to win. It was a much better performance than we’ve seen recently. The referee ruined the game with his over-zealous booking of players."
Sarah Williams, Gilmerton: "A really bad result. The team played much better but panic set in near the end. The defence wasn’t good enough."
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