London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Jim Black auth-> Mark Ritchie
[B Robson 19] ;[A Archibald 53]
14 of 017 Steven Pressley 44 ;Lee Miller 48 ;Paul Hartley 86 L SPL H

Hearts steal points thanks to Hartley's stunning strike

Jim Black at Tynecastle
Sunday January 16, 2005
The Observer

Dundee United discovered to their cost that fortune does not blindly favour the brave when they were deprived of some reward for their stirling efforts by a match-winning goal four minutes from the end of a tense encounter. Paul Hartley's free-kick from 25 yards in the 86th minute deflected off the United wall to give Hearts a victory they did not merit.

Until then, it had seemed that youngster Lee Miller would command most of the post-match attention after he scored within three minutes of making his Hearts debut.

This defeat has intensified the pressure on Dundee United manager Ian McCall and the team's Scottish Cup third-round tie against Gretna this week has taken on even greater significance for the Tannadice team.

Tynecastle is not yet officially the House of Romanov, but it can only be a matter of time before multimillionaire Lithuanian Vladimir Romanov becomes the new Laird of Gordie. The hardcore Hearts fans, the bulk of whom are adamant that the club must remain at their spiritual home, have given Romanov an overwhelming vote of confidence. All that remains is for the board of directors to sanction the takeover deal proposed by the eastern European.

On the evidence of what was witnessed for much of the first half yesterday, chairman George Foulkes and his colleagues will be well advised not to delay too much longer, for Hearts clearly require an injection of personnel if they are to offer a more credible challenge to the Old Firm.

Dundee United are no great shakes to the extent that their future as Premierleague club is far from secure. Yet United scored first to at least partially silence the home support who had vented their anger against debutant Steve Crawford, the former Hibernian striker who incurred their displeasure by rejecting the chance to return to the capital from Plymouth.

Barry Robson's superbly executed free-kick from 22 yards in the 19th minute, awarded after Hartley's foul on Derek McInnes, curled agonisingly wide of goalkeeper Craig Gordon's outstretched hand.

Perhaps a goal was more than United merited, but Hearts' inability to read the situation when two of Robson's team-mates executed dummy runs was their undoing.

Predictably, it was not a classic encounter and too much of the play centred on midfield, where the intention appeared to be to dismantle the opposition's build-up rather than engineer moves of any consequence. To be blunt, goalmouth action was at a premium, Hearts' response to Robson having broken the deadlock amounting to a half-chance that was passed up by Kevin McKenna after 33 minutes. It did, however, require considerable agility on the part of Gordon to deny United a second goal five minutes later, when the young Scotland goalkeeper reacted with razor-sharp reflexes to save Robson's effort low at his near post.

Hearts must have been almost as surprised as the opposition when they equalised one minute before the interval after showing few signs of posing a meaningful threat. Phil Stamp's corner from the right was missed by Tony Bullock as Hearts captain Steven Pressley could not miss from close range as he slid the ball in at the back post.

Given what had gone before, there was no hint that the early stages of the second period would be worthy of detailed recall. But the crowd was reawakened by two goals in the space of four minutes as both teams moved into a higher gear in an effort to provide a more entertaining spectacle.

The first of these goals was claimed by Hearts in the 49th minute when McKenna, positioned at the back post, flicked the ball into the path of Ramón Pereira, Hearts' Spanish striker. Pereira's shot appeared to be in , but Lee Miller finished it off anyway, to make certain. United's response was to mount an offensive of their own four minutes later, which got the reward of a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

Mark Wilson took the kick and the ball eventually fell for Alan Archibald to strike the equaliser from 20 yards and ensure that the contest remained finely balanced, until Hartley's dramatic late intervention.

Man of the match: Barry Robson. He epitomised Dundee United's finest qualities in terms of their wholehearted endeavour and fighting spirit. The midfielder also scored with a spectacular free-kick, which was one of the highlights of a tense and rugged encounter, and he hardly deserved to be on the losing team.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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