London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Simon Pia auth-> John Rowbotham
Maybury Alan [R Foran pen 28]
4 of 013 ----- L SPL H

Robertson's words haunt him as Hearts finish Well beaten


MOTHERWELL 1 Foran 27 pen

SEXY football or realpolitik? It is too soon to say what the Hearts support would prefer but the choice was on offer as the Tannoy announced: "The legend has returned."

John Robertson was formally back in the body of his kirk with his first appearance at Hearts spiritual - if not temporal home for much longer - and with him he’s brought a new system. Whereas the Levein years were stolid, the Robertson era has been prefaced with media hype as one with a style which fits his playing profile as a cavalier in club of roundheads.

Indeed it is worth reflecting for a moment on what Robertson achieved as a player. His time on the pitch was legendary and remarkable, especially as he never had support of the calibre of a Conn or a Wardhaugh as had Willie Bauld. Neither did he have the magnificence of the Famous Five alongside him as he almost doubled the derby goalscoring record of Gordon Smith, the Prince of Wingers.

So it would be surprising if he had a prosaic approach to the game. Indeed he lived up to the billing with an unfamiliar, attacking 4-3-3 formation against Motherwell with Ramon Pereira and Mark de Vries on either side of Dennis Wyness. It did not quite work as Hearts suffered their first home defeat from a side outwith the Old Firm since 2002.

However, there is no shame in losing to this Motherwell side who already outwitted Hearts at Fir Park this season. They were composed and Terry Butcher has got them back on the road after a black October as five successive defeats have been turned into three wins in a row without a goal conceded and nine scored.

There was also a smidgen of luck in getting a penalty that saw Hearts reduced to ten men with more than an hour to go, while they were denied a claim when Pereira tumbled on the hour mark.

However it must be said it was fairly obvious early on that some were struggling to get to grips with Hearts’ new system, especially De Vries playing wide and unused to so much ball to feet, which may have explained his lack of concentration when Alan Maybury skipped down the wing to pick him out unmarked in the box after six minutes. De Vries could only nod down gently towards the relieved Gordon Marshall,who could hardly believe his luck as he did not have to even have to stretch his hands. The striker realised his gaffe immediately and sunk his head into his hands.

In contrast, Maybury was relishing the ability to hold the ball and pass and run rather than pumping long balls forward and was unlucky not to score two minutes later. Pereira had held off his man and slipped the ball back to the fullback, who weaved his way in to the box and side-footed his shot past Marshall only for the ball to ping off the base of the post.

But the pressure was beginning to tell on the Motherwell goalkeeper when he spilled Paul Hartley’s free-kick from 25 yards unnecessarily in 11th minute.

Meanwhile Motherwell had hardly sniffed the ball, but a sign of a maturing side is that Terry Butcher has installed patience in his players and their first chance came in the 21st minute, albeit after Robbie Neilson and Steven Pressley had got in a mix-up letting Jim Paterson find Marc Fitzpatrick in open space only 12 yards out, but he scooped the ball over. He too, like De Vries, sunk his head into his hands.

However Hearts’ three-man midfield was also struggling to adapt to a more measured tempo with a build up of passes as opposed to banging the ball up front to the target man, and their rhythm was interrupted which suited Motherwell’s counterattack and led to the opening goal in the 27th minute.

David Clarkson dropped back into midfield to win the ball and spring Corrigan into the box. Hearts were all over the place and it was left to the hapless Maybury to cut inside to cover and clip Corrigan with his shoulder. It was professionally enough done for him to have got away with it on another day, but referee Rowbotham correctly pointed to the spot. Then he went for the red card. Rules are rules and Maybury did look like the last man. Foran snatched up the ball and smartly side-footed to his right while Gordon went the other way.

Hearts had benefited by exactly the same rule against Dundee recently, but their manager did not see it this way and gave a real outburst after the game.

Neither did the home support, booing off Rowbotham at half-time.

Hearts bravely stuck with three up front despite being down to ten, but Motherwell’s defence was unrelenting. Meanwhile they were waiting to pick Hearts off on the counter attack and should have gone two up in 52 minutes when Jim Paterson cut inside and shot. Craig Gordon parried and the ball took a bounce before reaching Foran, who side-footed it off the inside of the post. Hearts would have been dead and buried, two goals down with only ten men.

Further controversy awaited as Hearts were twice denied a penalty, first when Pereira tumbled in front of Marshall and then when Steven Craigan pushed De Vries, a decision even Butcher admitted afterwards they were lucky to get away with.

Meantime, a cynic may say if you are going to play sexy football you have to have the goods in the first place.

Taken from the Scotsman

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