London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Mark Woods auth-> Iain Brines
9 of 019 ----- L SPL H

Hearts European dream disappears over horizon




IF EVERY song tells a story, then the lyricism of the two sets of supporters within Tynecastle yesterday appropriately defined the sentiment of the occasion at its end. Hearts, uninspired and unconvincing as has become their wont of late, departed the field to a chorus of boos. By contrast, Motherwell were serenaded in alto voce for yet another tigerish performance.

The 90 minutes before had been the very epitome of a dull scoreless stalemate but for those from Fir Park and its environs, it was very much a point diligently won. It was hardly a surprise, of course. Terry Butcher’s men have been an irritant to the Edinburgh outfit this entire campaign, monopolising every encounter between the sides.

Appropriately, if somewhat irresponsibly, their supporters replicated the sentiment as kick-off approached, deluging the pitch with enough amber and maroon streamers to necessitate the culling of a small forest. As Hearts plunge inexorably toward the no-man’s land of mid-table ambivalence, what passes for remaining interest will now surely centre upon the future of head coach John Robertson. Being a club legend does not a buffer make, it would seem.

Regardless of the mantra of continuity currently being publicly preached from within these walls, one cannot ignore the possibility that the three remaining games of the Jambos’ campaign might represent the concluding chapter of Robertson’s service here.

You can’t fault the wee man’s passion, however. During a first half which only in its latter stages dared to surpass the General Election campaign in the excitement stakes, Tynecastle’s favourite son was a most enthralling totem whether bending the ear of the fourth official or bellowing advice to his charges.

Their failure throughout to properly capitalise on a dominance of the midfield suggested it was required. Even when Mark Burchill carved open the visiting defence twice in quick succession, poor finishing from first Paul Hartley and then Lee Miller ensured that the deadlock would be prolonged. The most consistent source of Hearts pressure, however, came from Saulius Mikoliunas who utilised his speed to tease and torment Well.

Bursting into the box to meet a delivery from compatriot Deividas Cesnauskis, he came so close to breaking the monotony when he headed powerfully toward goal, only to be thwarted by a despairing lunge from Gordon Marshall.

As half-time approached, and it could come not a moment too soon, a welcome late flurry of activity at both ends appeared. Neil MacFarlane doggedly ploughed his way through a line of opponents and if only Miller had been fractionally more alert, he could surely have capitalised.

Having earlier brought a fine save from Craig Gordon, Richie Foran tested the Scotland international once more with a snap shot which almost crept inside the near post. Before long, the Irishman was handed an even more straightforward opportunity to grab a timely lead when Steven Pressley’s handball elicited a penalty for the guests. Yet it slipped by, his potent kick reverberating off the post.

Shaun Fagan found his raid halted by the keeper in his final contribution before being replaced by James Paterson. So too Jim Hamilton and Foran in a promising beginning to the second period for the Steelmen. No genuine cutting edge was to be found though.

Obstinate at the back, industrious at the front, Motherwell stood their ground and put Gordon under regular pressure with a sequence of speedy despatches into his box. It may not have been pretty but at least it hinted at ambition, a trait which Hearts singularly lacked.

Only when Mikoliunas embarked on a solo burst upfield did one briefly sense enlightenment was in the air but Miller, the ultimate beneficiary of his handiwork, displayed far too much nonchalance in his half-hearted attempt to deceive Marshall. The Lithuanian probably wished he’d had a go himself.

Set up subsequently by Cesnauskis, his aim was no better when he pounded the ball into the air. It wasn’t even close. Realistically, any hopes Hearts had of a European excursion next season - with or without Robertson in charge - have now drifted similarly askew.

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Webster, Pressley, Wallace, MacFarlane, Cesnauskis, Hartley, Mikoliunas, Burchill (Wyness, 71), Miller.

Motherwell: Marshall, Craigan, Partridge, Kerr, Quinn, Corrigan, Fagan (Paterson, 68), Foran (Keogh, 77), Fitzpatrick, Clarkson, Hamilton.

Referee: I Brines.

Taken from the Scotsman

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