London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Mike McCurry
[G O'Connor 8] ;[D Riordan 63]
18 of 020 Lee Miller 23 ;Andy Webster 88 L SPL A

Hearts going nowhere as fifth place beckons


AS THE rays streamed down from piercing blue skies over Easter Road on Saturday, there was never a more appropriate sight than the Hibs support belting out their adopted anthem Sunshine On Leith at half-time. For John Robertson however, the nights are drawing in.

There exists an argument that Hearts’ point was deserved in light of an unsuccessful but justifiable penalty claim in the 74th minute for a foul by the at-times calamitous Simon Brown on Lee Miller. But, worthy or not, the game is up on their dreams of European participation for the third consecutive season.

Where that leaves manager Robertson, only God - or Vladimir Romanov, as he is better known amongst the Tynecastle support - knows. The Lithuanian major shareholder is also the major card holder when it comes to the head coach’s future.

Robertson’s comments on the issue were miserly to say the least after the match, and understandably so as Romanov and his band of merry money men prepare for a summer convention to review their manager’s contract.

It is fair to assume though that the imminent prospect of waving goodbye from the window of the departure lounge as Tony Mowbray and his players jet off to the UEFA Cup this autumn does not sit comfortably with the new Hearts board, and as such Saturday’s draw has done Robertson few favours.

When asked if he has been given a timescale regarding his own contract situation, Robertson bluntly replied: "No." He was then asked if he will be requesting a meeting with his directors to clarify the situation, and the same trenchant answer was trotted out.

It all appears to leave Hearts in an uncertain state, both on the field and off.

While Hearts do deserve credit for the necessary guts evinced to prise a draw from a game in which they could have been dead and buried, but never was a statement more truthful than Robertson’s overall summation of the latest Edinburgh derby.

"I think in the bigger picture it is a far better point for Hibs than it is for us," said a candid Robertson.

He has never been a man to give up, either as a player or on this steep learning curve he is enduring as a manager, but deep down he will be conscious of the fact that the fight for third place is now effectively a two-way slog between Hibs and Aberdeen.

He continued: "I can understand the Hearts fans’ frustrations but after a wonderful goal from Derek [Riordan, to make it 2-1] we had to ring the changes. Saulius Mikoliunas is not match-fit, I think you could see that, so we took him off and then replaced a defensive midfielder, Neil MacFarlane, with an attacking one in Stephen Simmons. I think that got us the goal we deserved.

"A draw was right. It’s up to you guys to write about the penalty incident. Lee has robbed the keeper, who has then followed through and caught him. It happened that quick so maybe the referee didn’t see it, but we are convinced it was a foul."

Garry O’Connor afforded Hibs an early advantage with the sort of start everyone dreams of making in a derby match, scoring a tap-in on seven minutes to settle his side’s nerves.

Lee Miller’s equaliser was sublime as a passing movement with the ball being moved from defence through Paul Hartley and Mark Burchill and eventually to the new icon of the away support for a roof-of-the-net finish.

Half-time came and went without note, other than a reported scuffle in the tunnel after Miller had felled Scott Brown just as referee Mike McCurry blew for the interval.

The Hearts striker’s mouthing at Brown for play-acting was needlessly petulant, and the signs were ominous as Hibs players, and in turn a posse of stewards, ran to surround Miller as he headed down the tunnel. Mikoliunas’ lack of recent match action due to suspension appeared to tell the minute McCurry’s puff, of which he evidently had more than the Lithuanian, pushed the pea around his whistle to restart the match. The common phrase is ‘blowing out your back passage’, and it cost Hearts dear.

Derek Riordan was given space to gather the ball and run at the visiting defence with Mikoliunas unable to track his man. The consequence for Hearts was a curling finish beyond Craig Gordon into the top corner, while the consequence for Mikoliunas was having a seething Steven Pressley scream his displeasure into his face. Clearly the lapse in concentration had not been well received.

Hearts took till three minutes from time to recover when Hartley’s free-kick clipped the Hibs wall onto the head of Andy Webster to make it 2-2.

The creator was happy for small mercies upon reflection of a dominant opening spell for Tony Mowbray’s side.

"I’ll settle for a point because it could have been a lot worse. Then again it could have been a lot better.

"I’ve been working on that style of free-kick in training," joked Hartley, who along with MacFarlane and Pressley emanated enthusiasm and tireless drive for his side’s cause throughout the afternoon. "Today was a must-win game for us and with games running out for us it’s not looking good for third place.

"Over the last couple of weeks we really could have got ourselves back into it but we’ve suffered two defeats and then a draw today. We’ll keep going till the end, though."

As a former Hibs player, Hartley bore the brunt of the home support’s bile with frequent colourful suggestions from fans housed in the visually out-of-proportion east stand as to how the midfielder spends his spare time. A dozen or so at even had the audacity to complain to stewards at the end because he stuck his tongue out at them in celebration of the late leveller.

The Scotland internationalist could see the humour though. "Yes, I’m well loved here by the Hibs punters," he smiled, perhaps restraining himself from crowing about his blossoming as a footballer since arriving on the other side of the city. Hartley’s evolution will be put on hold for a while after yesterday’s result, as immediate opponents like Scott Brown and Antonio Murray will have earned the right to learn from some of the Continent’s best should they see off Aberdeen and clinch third spot and that last UEFA Cup place.

At least Hartley does have a burgeoning career with Scotland, which will be his only means of adding to his air miles next season as well as being an outlet for his focus away from domesticity. For others at Tynecastle, the future might not be as prosperous.

Taken from the Scotsman

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