London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2005-06--> All for 20050827
<-Page <-Team Sat 27 Aug 2005 Hearts 2 Motherwell 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
George Burley <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Craig Thomson
[R Foran pen 75]
13 of 021 Rudi Skacel 40 ;Edgaras Jankauskas 70 L SPL H

Gordon fast becoming a legend


Hearts 2
Motherwell 1

AS part of Hearts' bid to "dress up" Tynecastle for this season, huge banners of legendary players past and present have been draped around the floodlight columns.

From the likes of golden oldies Tommy Walker, Willie Bauld and John Cumming to more recent heroes such as Gary Mackay, John Robertson and Steven Pressley, their images hang proudly around the ground.

Supporters also voted in the goalkeeping duo of Jim Cruickshank and Henry Smith, another two servants who gave invaluable service to the Gorgie outfit.

What chance current custodian Craig Gordon joining this elite band along with Rudi Skacel, the pair having made huge contributions to Hearts' fifth SPL triumph in a row? At the age of just 22, the shot-stopper was playing his 95th competitive match for Hearts against Motherwell on Saturday and it's unlikely he has made a more significant save since taking over as the Jambos' No.1.

With his side defending a 2-1 lead - and their proud 100 per cent start to the current campaign - deep into stoppage time at Tynecastle, Gordon produced a quite stunning stop to deny David Clarkson.

Handed a lifeline by Ritchie Foran's 75th-minute penalty, the Steelmen were pushing desperately for an equaliser when the ball fell for Clarkson inside the area. The substitute caught his half-volley beautifully and as the sell-out Gorgie crowd held its collective breath as the ball flew towards the far corner of Gordon's goal, the Scotland keeper flung himself to his left to push it away for what must already be a contender for save of the season.

No sooner had his heroics left the visitors holding their heads in disbelief, than referee Craig Thomson blew for time up.

Every victory raises expectations among the fans that perhaps owner Vladimir Romanov's dream of league glory is not as fanciful as it first sounded - and the stunning turn of events at Ibrox on Saturday afternoon as Hibs put Alex McLeish's champions to the sword only served to add to such enthusiasm among the Gorgie faithful for the season which lies ahead.

As ever, though, Burley insists much work remains to be done if a meaningful league challenge is to materialise from those in maroon.

"Saturday showed we are way short of being the finished article," he said. "We have set a standard but let it drop against Motherwell. But, as far as team building is going, we have only just started.

"I have said all along we have a long way to go. We are pulling people together and trying to blend them and there is a lot of work to be done. There are still areas we need to improve. At some point we want to be able to compete against the Old Firm. We said that six weeks ago and people laughed at us. I still don't feel we have anywhere near a strong enough squad but, if we can add two or three, then who knows what we can do.

"There is no comparison between our squad and what Celtic and Rangers have but what you can't take away from the boys is spirit and commitment. That's five wins on the trot and we can't ask any more than that."

Before Czech star Skacel made his mark on the game when he clinically converted his fifth goal in five successive league outings shortly before the break to provide the platform for this latest success, Hearts had already carved out a couple of excellent openings, Paul Hartley, Edgaras Jankauskas and Skacel all being denied by good stops from Graeme Smith.

However, the fact that Hearts had Gordon to thank for maintaining an unblemished opening to the season was evidence that the home side were not at their best.

The wheels of the well-oiled Burley bandwagon may not have been in danger of flying off at the weekend but they certainly didn't rotate in the same smooth manner of the opening weeks of the season.

But ask any manager and he'll tell you it's a sign of a good team if it can keep winning when not in prime form.

The hosts had gone into the game having failed to score against Motherwell for a remarkable 375 minutes in the league, Kevin McKenna the last man on the mark in a 3-2 victory at Tynecastle in May last year.

Skacel's well taken opener, though, appeared to set Hearts on the way to another regulation three points, Jankauskas doubling the advantage by netting his first league counter 20 minutes from time when he turned and drilled home Takis Fyssas' mis-hit cutback high into the net from six yards out.

But Terry Butcher's men hadn't read the script and could well have snatched a point in the closing stages.

Gordon made the first of two vital second-half stops in the 74th minute when he dived to his right to turn away Brian Kerr's powerful drive.

Sixty seconds later, though, and his hopes of a fifth successive clean sheet - and fourth in the SPL - were shattered when Foran converted from the spot after Julien Brellier was deemed to have fouled former Jambo Jim Hamilton in the area.

Their tails up, Well could sniff an unlikely fightback and the unmarked Hamilton missed a glaring chance to level the game in the 79th minute when he dragged a shot wide of goal with the home defence posted missing.

Clarkson then showed his team-mate how it should be done only to be denied by the brilliance of Gordon with what was literally the last touch of the game.

"We got the three points without ever playing anywhere near our best," said Burley.

"All credit to Motherwell, who battled right to the end. After going 2-0 up I thought we got very sloppy, we were giving the ball away in bad situations and but for Craig Gordon we could have lost some points."

Whether Gordon goes on to make anywhere near the number of appearances of Cruickshank or Smith is open to conjecture, although the club clearly acknowledge his special talents with talks already underway at extending his contract beyond its 2007 expiry date.

Burley is a huge admirer of the young keeper whom he believes boasts the necessary skills and temperament to rise to the very top of the game, the former Ipswich and Derby manager drawing favourable comparisons to Richard Wright, who Burley tutored in Suffolk before seeing the keeper progress to Arsenal and England.

"To be fair, in the first four games he has been unemployed a lot of the time, but I have said all along that he has a big future as a really top-class keeper.

"There aren't a lot of Scottish goalkeepers you can say that about and at 22 he can go all the way.

"He has a big presence in the box. I had a very good keeper in Richard Wright who left to go to Arsenal too early. He was top class and Craig I feel can be even better. I think he is the best keeper in Scotland, he has been first class since I came here and I think he can only get better."

Taken from the Scotsman

<-Page <-Team Sat 27 Aug 2005 Hearts 2 Motherwell 1 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © 2005 |