London Hearts Supporters Club

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Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Mike McCurry
[J Mitchell 73]
3 of 005 Steven Pressley 79 L SPL A

A game to forget, but it wasn't all pointless

Paul Kiddie

IT wasn’t pretty to watch, it wasn’t entertaining. But it WAS a point. And that is about as much as can be said about Hearts’ trip to Firhill at the weekend.

The Jambos clash with Partick Thistle looked to have the potential of a decent game with both sides having much to play for.

The Jags were desperate for the points in a bid to drag themselves clear of the relegation zone while the Gorgie outfit were determined to continue their push for Europe.

Both sets of fans therefore turned up looking forward to the tussle which lay ahead. But both teams, however, simply failed to deliver.

Firhill for thrills? Try telling that to the 5288 poor souls who paid good money only to suffer through 90 minutes of instantly forgettable action - one onlooker suggested the fare which was served up would get football stopped.

With real goalmouth incident at a premium, there was precious little to set the supporters’ pulses racing as both teams cancelled each other out on what was a poor excuse for a football pitch.

The bare, rock hard park made players unsure of the bounce and made it almost impossible for any attractive football to be played - Hearts’ gifted playmaker Jean-Louis Valois looking particularly out of sorts on the tricky surface.

In such circumstances more often than not it is down to a team’s willingness to roll up its collective sleeves, dig deep and basically grind out a result.

And that is exactly what they had to do against John Lambie’s well-organised Jags, who it must be remembered had the better of the first 70 minutes of their clash with Rangers at Ibrox the previous weekend before the home side broke the deadlock.

Character is a word which has often been used when talking about Hearts this season and just when it appeared as if Craig Levein’s outfit was about to crash to a damaging defeat, the Jambos once again demonstrated the kind of resilience which has underpinned their league challenge this season.

Last week they had to fight back from a goal down against Dundee United, Andy Webster and Andy Kirk netting in the second half to keep the points in Gorgie. This time Hearts were rocked by a goal from Jamie Mitchell with just 17 minutes remaining, the No.7’s header his side’s only effort on target.

And while this game may have been lost on another occasion fit-again Steven Pressley, who had missed the United clash with an ankle injury, had other ideas, the Tynecastle skipper leading by example as he popped up to volley home the leveller five minutes after the hosts had taken the lead.

In truth neither side did enough to merit maximum points from the match, although the share of the spoils could yet prove to be a significant contribution to Hearts’ attempt to bring back European football to the Capital next season.

With fourth-placed Kilmarnock going down 2-0 to Celtic at Parkhead, the Jambos now have a four-point advantage over the Ayrshire side with a game in hand - against the Celts at Tynecastle - this weekend.

Despite the dreadful game, it was the visiting supporters who went home happier after rescuing a point - although Levein was quick to apologise for the ‘spectacle’.

"I felt for both sets of players as conditions were extremely difficult," he said. "When Jean-Louis can’t control the ball and run with it, things have to be difficult.

"The state of the park had a huge part to play. The ball was firing off the ground and players were having to concentrate more on their touch. Because of that they tended to be looking down and, for example, miss the first time pass. I can’t fault the players. We have been involved in our fair share of good football matches this year and I’d ask people to forgive us for this one.

"Both teams worked very hard to get back behind the ball and did good things defensively. But unfortunately good things defensively don’t make good viewing."

Things had started so positively for the visitors, too.

Scott Severin sent a 30-yarder flashing over the top with less than 60 seconds play and four minutes later Mark de Vries had a header cleared off the line by Jamie Buchan.

The Dutchman had another opening in the 21st minute when he burst clear of the Jags defence but disappointingly dragged his left foot shot well wide of target.

It was midway through the second half before the next meaningful passage of play; Kirk linking well with De Vries before cutting inside the area only to see Kenny Arthur save his shot at the near post.

Seven minutes later, though, and Hearts were stunned by Mitchell’s opener.

The Thistle star rose well to head goalwards, the combined efforts of Tepi Moilanen, Phil Stamp and Austin McCann failing to stop the ball crossing the line.

A double substitution by Levein helped turn the game against United and another change on Saturday paid dividends.

Kevin McKenna, dropped to the bench with Pressley fit, replaced Steven Boyack in the 75th minute and three minutes later the equaliser arrived after good perseverance from the Canadian won his side a corner.

Stamp’s flag kick was helped on by Neil MacFarlane and there was skipper Pressley charging in to smash home a rare goal.

"One down, away from home and for the umpteenth time this season we come back and get a point means I can’t be too disheartened," said Levein.

"A draw away from home in the Premierleague is always not a bad result.

"I am not someone who likes to be negative about Scottish football. But on Saturday, because of the conditions and what was at stake, we didn’t perform to our best.

"Footballing wise it was a bit of a rough day for us."

The Firhill draw was yet another case of Hearts leaving it late - but their fans should be used to that this season with a clutch of points having been won in the latter stages of matches.

What they will not be used to is seeing their team turn in such an insipid display. And a marked improvement will be required if the Jambos are to keep their noses in front in the race for Europe.

Taken from the Scotsman

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