London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2004-05--> All for 20040904
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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Mike Aitken auth-> John Rowbotham
[S Dobbie pen 80]
12 of 016 Craig Sives 41 ;Mark de Vries 63 ;Dennis Wyness 81 Other Cup H

Levein's kids pack punch at right time


Hearts 3
Sives (41), De Vries (60), Wyness (81)

Hibernian 1
Dobbie (79)

Referee: J Rowbotham. Attendance: 7,282

IF CRAIG Levein needs to dive into the pool of resources at his disposal during what promises to be a hectic September, then the Hearts’ coach can be pretty sure he won’t break any more bones. On the evidence of this comfortable victory over their oldest rivals in the Festival Cup on Saturday, the talent available to Levein is surprisingly deep.

Starting with Rangers in the SPL on Sunday, Hearts face a critical run of half-a-dozen games in domestic and European competitions before the end of the month which will have a huge bearing on the success of their season. It’s a sequence of six matches in the SPL, the UEFA Cup and the CIS Cup over 18 days which surely won’t be negotiated by 11 players. The value of this game lay in reminding the coach he has some room for manoeuvre.

While the return of Mark de Vries from a troublesome hamstring injury for a 30-minute outing as a substitute was indisputably the most significant aspect of the exercise - the big striker headed home Hearts’ second goal with his first touch of the ball - there were also encouraging displays from others who have yet to figure in the starting line-up this season.

Before he picked up a knock and had to be replaced 20 minutes before the end, Michael Stewart turned in a tidy performance. The effectiveness of the on-loan Manchester United player’s contribution wasn’t minimised by the unobtrusive manner in which he went about his business. Experienced goalkeeper Tepi Moilanen, left-back Jamie McAllister and fellow midfielder Neil MacFarlane also posted reminders of their availability.

Although it would take a defensive crisis of alarming proportions to propel either Craig Sives or Christophe Berra into the first team in the weeks ahead, the performances of the teenage centre-backs were an added bonus for Levein.

Berra is the quicker of the two and in the longer run may be the more likely prospect. In this game, though, it was Sives who caught the eye thanks to a swashbuckling debut.

Whether it was scoring the opening goal, getting booked or giving away a penalty, the young centre-half was involved in every aspect of the game. For one so young, Sives was commanding and certainly looked the part. Although Levein was reluctant to take any of the coaching credit for the development of either Berra or Sives - other than to promise both players will become first-team regulars in the years to come - the influence exerted by the former international defender on his proteges was glaring. There’s a reason why Hearts have one of the best defences in Scotland and you don’t need to be a member of Mensa to work it out.

Only Robbie Neilson and Phil Stamp of those who have played in all of Hearts’ matches this season were involved in this game. Neilson, who captained the team, has responded to McAllister’s arrival by raising his game and making it difficult for Levein to leave him out. Stamp, who operated on the left side of midfield, was typically forceful in raw company. It was from a foul on the Englishman that Stewart’s free-kick gave Sives the chance to bundle Hearts in front.

"Our young centre-backs did well and so did Calum Elliot, who is only 17, up front," said Stamp. "A big part of what you saw is down to the new training ground and the fact we can now go to work at the same place every day. Last season, it was a bit of a farce, really, looking for different places every day. Now everyone knows what they’re doing and Craig [Sives] couldn’t have asked for any more on his debut.

"We’ve got a really big three weeks coming up with a lot of important games. The good thing is that the kids are coming through and showing they can make a contribution. It was also vital for us to get Mark back, because the team revolves around him. He’s a big asset who can hold the ball up so well. For the players in midfield and the full-backs, having Mark in the side is such an important outlet. Ramon [Perreira] likes to come a bit deeper and I think the pair of them will do well together.

"Rangers are on a bit of a downer at the moment and maybe we’ll be getting them at a good time. Then it’s a European tie against Braga and the manager has told us they’re a good side as well. The big thing for us is to try and get over that hurdle because to reach the group stage of the UEFA Cup would be massive for the club."

As for Hibs, Tony Mowbray, their manager, took heart from the return of Ian Murray after a long absence caused by two hernia operations and a knee injury. Murray played at centre-half for 90 minutes but is likely to take up a more accustomed role in midfield once he’s fully match fit. While Stephen Dobbie staked a claim for a first-team place with a bustling display up front, there weren’t too many other obvious plus points. Craig Rocastle, signed on loan from Chelsea, made a quiet debut in what was a youthful selection which tried hard but lacked physical presence.

"I didn’t find out anything that I didn’t already know and appreciate we have a long way to go at this club," observed Mowbray. "I can’t criticise anyone for a lack of effort, but our young footballers have a lot to learn. We concede a lot of goals to balls which come into our box. If you’re a 6ft 4ins attacker and the defender who is marking you is 5ft 10ins then you’ve every chance of getting your head on the ball. I know what it takes to win games and why we’re losing them. Over the piece, we’ll get there."

Taken from the Scotsman

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