London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 27 Aug 2005 Hearts 2 Motherwell 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
George Burley <-auth Tom English auth-> Craig Thomson
[R Foran pen 75]
7 of 021 Rudi Skacel 40 ;Edgaras Jankauskas 70 L SPL H

Hearts boss wants new blood


HEARTS 2 Skacel 41, Jankauskas 70
MOTHERWELL 1 Foran 75 pen

SUNSHINE on Leith, perhaps, but the good times on Gorgie Road show no sign of abating. This was a puzzling game, one in which Hearts created enough clearcut openings to put Motherwell in a box a good half hour before the final whistle but which ended with Craig Gordon having to make a quite wonderful diving save to deny the sticky visitors a draw.

When David Clarkson caught hold of a volley inside the Hearts penalty area with literally the last kick of the match, Gordon threw himself away to his left and preserved his team's faultless beginning to the new season.

They are now a dizzying five points clear at the top, six points clear of Rangers and eight ahead of Celtic, who play today. George Burley declared himself relieved and happy. His team had not been at their best and had gotten sloppy after Rudi Skacel and Edgaras Jankauskas had given Hearts a 2-0 lead that had looked unassailable until Richie Foran's penalty injected life into Motherwell. The Hearts manager paid special tribute to his goalkeeper and rightly so. Gordon didn't have much to do but he was there when he was needed most.

Burley is clearly a realist, talking of how far Hearts have to go in their development but there is an ambition bubbling there, too. With five wins out of five he was in a slightly more bullish mood yesterday.

"We've set a standard and we let it slip at times today," he said. "We're way short of being the finished article but Mr Romanov is aware that we want to strengthen the squad. At some point we want to feel we can compete against the Old Firm. When we said that six weeks ago people laughed at us but with two or three new players who knows what we can do? Who knows?"

The manager said he would now go and talk business with Romanov so it is possible, perhaps even probable, that the Lithuanian will dig a little deeper and bring in some more new players before the transfer deadline closes on Wednesday.

One of the new boys, Skacel, must be bearing down on some kind of record at this point. He scored his fifth goal in five consecutive league matches yesterday and is just one behind Henrik Larsson's record in the SPL. "Our strikers will get better, fitter and stronger," said Burley, "but it's important that other players chip in with goals."

Skacel, who is on loan, is doing more than his share. Though they have been inept at the back this season Motherwell actually competed well. "I've slaughtered them in the past but I have to praise them today," was how Terry Butcher described his team's performance. The manager's prime aim was, surely, to inject a bit of order into his beleaguered rearguard and he did that.

His team were pinned in their own half for vast chunks of the match but they coped. They were alert and aggressive and the lines of communication were vastly improved. When Hearts did open them up they had in, Graeme Smith, a goalkeeper who proved devilishly hard to beat. The former Rangers man came in for Colin Meldrum and was in action as early as the second minute when blocking a shot by Paul Hartley. He came to his team's rescue again in the 33rd minute when Robbie Neilson's cross fizzed off the turf and carried to Skacel, who got his shot away quickly but not quickly enough to beat Smith. The goalkeeper then denied Jankauskas with a low save to his right.

In all this time, Motherwell had but one opportunity to score themselves, a Scott McDonald effort beaten away by Gordon in the 18th minute. That apart, the traffic headed in just one direction for the longest time and there was a certain inevitability about the goal when it came. It was quick and it was slick. Gordon's throw found Saulius Mikoliunas and he linked with Hartley. The Scottish midfielder wasted no time in playing Skacel in and the Czech international beat Smith at his near post.

Chances came steadily after that. First up was Roman Bednar, who went into the game some way below full fitness, but still had plenty of nuisance value. Inside two minutes of the restart he almost had a goal, too, when getting his considerable frame on the end of a Hartley free-kick. Bednar's header was thumped into the ground before bouncing up and just over Smith's crossbar.

Steven Pressley, getting the taste for goal, managed to play Jankauskas through midway through the half but the striker was foiled by some smart work from Smith who was again called on to dig his team out of bother moments later when Bednar got away on his own.

Wave upon wave of Hearts pressure finally told in the 70th minute when Takis Fyssas hit a harmless-looking cross to the near post. Willie Kinniburgh should have dealt with it, but instead he allowed Jankauskas to gain possession and from an unlikely position, the big striker turned and rifled a left foot shot high into Smith's net.

It was a wonderful finish and at that point you have would bet the mortgage on Hearts strolling on to victory. Then the strangest things started to happen. Hearts lost their impetus and became shabby in possession while Motherwell got a bit of momentum of their own and suddenly started to believe in themselves a little. In the 75th minute, Jim Hamilton went down in the box under a clumsy challenge from Julien Brellier and Motherwell won a penalty, neatly put away by Foran. A few moments later, mild concern among the home support turned to full scale panic when Shaun Fagan picked out Hamilton only to see the unmarked striker drive his shot across Gordon's goal and wide. It was a gilt-edged chance but it was not Motherwell's last.

That came in a pulsating finale when Clarkson, who had replaced McDonald in the 68th minute, forced a critical save out of Gordon with a smashing volley from inside the penalty area. Only then could Hearts breathe easy.

Taken from the Scotsman

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