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 Mike Aitken auth-> Craig Thomson
[R Foran pen 75]
12 of 021 Rudi Skacel 40 ;Edgaras Jankauskas 70 L SPL H

Hand of Gordon guides Hearts


Hearts 2 Skacel (41), Jankauskas (70)
Motherwell 1 Foran (pen 76)

Referee: C Thomson. Attendance: 16,213

GOALKEEPERS prevent defeats rather than earn victories. On Saturday, however, during the final seconds of injury time, Craig Gordon stashed away two bonus points for the SPL leaders thanks to an extraordinarily athletic and instinctive save from the last kick of the ball which increased Hearts' advantage over Celtic at the top of the table to five points.

By his own admission, Gordon has been putting the kettle on this season instead of working double shifts. While his formidable partnership with centre-backs Steven Pressley and Andy Webster is the beating heart of the Tynecastle revival, the solidity of Hearts' defence and the tenacity of their midfield quartet have left the goalkeeper as a virtual onlooker over the past month.

But not in the last 15 minutes or so of this match. Having deservedly established a two-goal advantage thanks to well taken efforts from Rudi Skacel and Edgaras Jankauskas, a proficient if low-key performance from Hearts became surprisingly casual. Here was clear evidence that if Hearts are serious about challenging for the title, they need to add to their squad before the transfer deadline.

George Burley, the Hearts manager, met with owner Vladimir Romanov on Saturday evening to discuss the issue. "The Motherwell match showed we're a long way short of the finished article," he said. "There are areas we need to improve and there's no comparison between our squad and Rangers and Celtic. Mr Romanov knows what I want. Fingers crossed we can get one or two in before Wednesday."

Goals change matches and Julien Brellier's clumsy challenge on Jim Hamilton not only gave Richie Foran a chance to score from the spot but also unnerved the home side. Although they'd made life difficult for Hearts, it was only after Foran's goal Motherwell achieved what proved beyond Aberdeen the previous week.They believed they could take something from the game.

Shaun Fagan's driven ball across the penalty box ended up at the feet of Hamilton.The unmarked striker, with time to do better, screwed the ball wide from six yards. But any sense of relief at that let off was nothing compared to the great escape of the last minute.

A long throw from Stephen Craigan was nudged across the box to David Clarkson. The substitute arched his body so perfectly his volley from ten yards was struck with power on a penetrating trajectory. As the ball flew towards the left-hand corner of Gordon's net, Hearts fans braced themselves for the first disappointment of a fairytale month. And then something remarkable happened. Guided by the inner radar which distinguishes the exceptional from the competent, Gordon dived left and somehow clawed the ball out of the air.

At the final whistle, it was hard to tell who was more stunned - the Hearts players who knew their keeper had made a priceless contribution, or the Motherwell men who felt their pockets had been picked. It was a memorable finale which prompted a fine moment of sportsmanship from Hamilton when the Motherwell striker put his arm around Gordon in disbelieving congratulation.

Gordon said: "The boys in the dressing room have just been reminding me that was the first thing I've had to do this season," he laughed. "That brought me down to earth right away. But I know it was a good save and an important one because we'd been holding on for a while. The way results went elsewhere it was important for us to get three points.

"Overall, we just about deserved the win even if it became a bit hairy after Motherwell scored the penalty. It was one of those days when we didn't string too many passes together but still managed to dominate for long spells.We won when we weren't at our best and that should act as a wee reminder that even though we are up at the top we can't relax. We need to keep doing the things which have taken us there."

Skacel's opening goal - his fifth in five consecutive games - came after quick thinking from Gordon whose throw out to Robbie Neilson initiated a pulverising counter-attack. Paul Hartley created the space for the Czech in the inside-right position. Short of full fitness, Skacel nevertheless showed he's two footed by squeezing the ball into the net at the near post with his right boot.

What should have been the clincher arrived midway through the second-half when Takis Fyssas made a surging break down the left only to miscue the cut-back. When the ball arrived at Jankauskas' feet with his back to goal, the big striker had plenty left to do. The speed of the turn and the power of the shot, however, caught the Motherwell defence off guard.

"We got really sloppy after the second goal," rued Burley. "But for Craig's save we could have lost two points. I feel he has a top-class future. At 22, he can go all the way and will just get better and better. He's a laid-back big boy but knows when to switch on. I once had a fine goalkeeper, Richard Wright, who went to Arsenal too early. Craig can be even better."

Terry Butcher, the Motherwell manager, was also impressed by Gordon's last-minute heroics. He confided that Peter Latchford, who played such an important part in Gordon's development when he worked at Tynecastle, is now part of the coaching staff at Fir Park. "I blame Peter entirely" grinned Butcher. "He's taught him too well. It was a fabulous save from a sweet volley."

Having put Hearts to the sword with punishing frequency last season, Butcher was impressed by Burley's new-look side. Yet to be convinced Hearts can match the Old Firm over the course of a season, Butcher added: "Hearts have a lot of strengths and they play to them. They have a very positive approach and will cause a lot of teams a lot of problems. All credit to George for bringing in the players who have adapted into a hard working, high energy side with. And they've got a formidable barrier in Pressley, Webster and Gordon."

Taken from the Scotsman

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