London Hearts Supporters Club

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[P Dalglish 44]
44 of 048 Rudi Skacel 10 ;Andy Webster 26 ;Paul Hartley 34 ;Paul Hartley pen 62 L SPL A

Hearts find the Livi is easy

ROB ROBERTSON at Almondvale September 12 2005

Livingston 1 - 4 Hearts

THE arithmetic is convincing, the message uncompromising.

Hearts yesterday scored four goals to cruise five points clear at the top of the league. Their powerful action at Almondvale was followed by George Burley saying his side had nothing to fear from the Old Firm.

The emphatic away win was the Gorgie side's sixth consecutive victory in the Bank of Scotland Premierleague. Two goals from Paul Hartley, and headers from Rudi Skacel and Andy Webster, gave them an easy three points. Paul Dalglish scored for the home side, who were outplayed for the majority of the match.

The question now is whether the Tynecastle team can continue this outstanding run.

Certainly, Burley's confidence appears to be growing by the day. At the beginning of the season he freely admitted that he was unsure what lay ahead for his team and this season could have been one for simply rebuilding the squad.

Yesterday, he was more bullish in his outlook. "People are realising we won't be any pushover," said Burley. "We don't fear them [the Old Firm] despite the fact we are not the finished article.

"Other teams will take us seriously as they realise we have a good team.

"If we finish third it will still be, for me, a good season. But we have certainly started better than anybody would have thought. We have won our first six games and nobody could have imagined that."

The excitement surrounding Hearts is reaching fever pitch among their fans, 6200 of whom turned up at Almondvale compared with 2205 home supporters. Vladimir Romanov, the Hearts supremo, joined the throng, travelling in a supporters' bus.

Speaking through an interpreter, he revealed plans to develop Tynecastle further, with the possibility of a hotel being built on site.

Burley admitted that it was impossible to harness the expectations of the supporters in light of their start to the season and Romanov's promises. "When I was manager at Ipswich and Derby, if we took 3500 to away matches that was good," said Burley. "To take over 6000 is unbelievable. The fans appreciate the effort the players are putting in."

Although Skacel is a cult hero at Tynecastle, it is Hartley who runs the show in midfield. His first goal, Hearts' third, was the pick of the bunch and came after he made a lung-bursting run from deep to get on the end of a Roman Bednar cross.

He admitted the start to the season had surprised even him but felt Hearts could go from strength to strength. "We are playing some good attacking football with players who have settled in very quickly," said Hartley. "I can understand the fans' excitement but we have only won six games and there's a long way to go.

"It's been the best week of my football life, with Scotland picking up four points in international matches and coming back here and helping Hearts to stay top of the table."

Both Hartley and Burley praised Skacel, who has scored six goals in his first six league games for Hearts. That is a great record for any player, let alone a midfielder who spent last season playing left-back for Panathinaikos.

Significantly, Hearts have in Craig Gordon a goalkeeper who can influence games just as Andy Goram did when he was at his peak with Rangers. Although Hearts won 4-1, he was responsible for a series of breathtaking saves, the pick coming when he palmed over a Derek Adams shot. He was slightly at fault for the Livingston goal, when he let a Graham Barrett free-kick squirm out of his grasp into the path of Dalglish, but more than made up for it with his overall performance.

Hearts travel to Inverness next week and then face Rangers at Tynecastle in what is shaping up to be a fascinating encounter. On their current form there is nothing to suggest their title challenge will falter.

Their defence looks strong, with Steven Pressley in inspirational form. In midfield, Julien Brellier does the donkey work which allows Hartley and Skacel to break forward. In attack, Bednar and Edgaras Jankauskas are two modern-day Joe Jordans who use their weight and physical presence to upset defences.

The Livingston story is a less happy one. Paul Lambert's team lacked composure in front of goal and were on the wrong end of a dubious refereeing decision. Hearts' fourth goal, scored by Hartley from the penalty spot, was given after Neil Barrett was judged to have fouled Jamie McAllister in the box.

Television replays showed there was little in the challenge but, when you are bottom of the league, such decisions tend to go against you.

Lambert praised the way Gordon had performed but was furious at the sloppy defending of his team. When asked whether he thought Hearts could win the title, said: "There's a long, long way to go yet. Celtic and Rangers are strong, and have a massive fan base which will pull them along. It is a long season but Hearts are there on merit and the fear of losing will keep them going. It will be interesting to see what happens.

"We need one good win to help turn things around. We had our chances but we didn't take them."

Taken from the Herald

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