London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 26 Nov 2005 Motherwell 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Graham Rix <-auth Graeme Smith auth-> Iain Brines
[B McLean 40]
18 of 025 Paul Hartley pen 90 L SPL A

No place for Pospisil as Hearts toil to find form


AFICIONADOS of the mind-exercising mystery would have been in their element at Fir Park, where two riddles were left unsolved. The first came to life on the field of play, causing observers to ponder the question of the sudden drop in the level of Hearts' performances.

The second, more sinister and containing the possibility of another Tynecastle controversy, was dropped on a startled media corps by Graham Rix immediately after the match.

The recently-installed manager revealed that Michal Pospisil, the Czech striker, had been fit to play, but dumped without explanation from the squad, denied even a place on the substitutes' bench.

This would have been remarkable in normal circumstances, but the fact that the injury-enforced absences of Edgaras Jankauskas and Roman Bednar had forced Rix to adopt an unfamiliar 4-5-1 formation - with the 18-year-old novice, Calum Elliot, the nominated lone striker - lent the event the malodorous whiff of scandal.

Given the precedent of directorial interference in selections and omissions at Hearts - the well-documented schism between Vladimir Romanov and George Burley that led, eventually, to the latter's departure - it would be almost an instinctive reaction from reporters to wonder if the old, damaging process had been resurrected. It is also possible, however, that Pospisil's non-appearance was the most obvious recrimination from his removal by Rix at half-time in the match at Aberdeen a week earlier.

It is, once again, reasonable to speculate that the player and the manager have collided, with former's consignment to a seat in the stand at Motherwell the outcome.

Rix, predictably, was not prepared to divulge the reasons for his decision to ditch the Czech. "Pospisil was not injured," said the manager. "He was left out. It's the decision I made, it's my job to do that." Pressed for embellishment, Rix replied: "It was purely a football decision."

If that was truly the case, it is fair to infer that it was rather an injudicious action. Even if Pospisil had not been in good form at Pittodrie - where Hearts, as at Fir Park, had to come from a goal down to secure a 1-1 draw - the weakening of the striking department by the unavailability of Jankauskas and Bednar ought surely to have ensured the experienced Pospisil at least a place in an 18-man squad.

Rix himself effectively gave support to the argument that the gambit of discarding Pospisil was unsound, when he admitted that he had been compelled to deploy his team in a formation with which they were unfamiliar and, as was subsequently evident, uncomfortable.

"Because of personnel problems, we had to play that way from the start," he said. "Edgaras was not worth the risk. He had a slight hamstring problem and missing one match was better than the possibility of doing further damage that could keep him out for weeks.

"Roman Bednar had been out for two months and trained for only four days, so I had to be fair to him. It would have been unreasonable to ask him to do a full 90 minutes."

Robbie Neilson, the Hearts right-back, confirmed that the players were not at ease with the 4-5-1 line-up. "It's not something we're used to," said Neilson, "and we never got started in the first half. It was pretty poor, same as Aberdeen last week.

"We came more into it in the second half, after a talk from the manager at half-time and the change to two up front. It's a long season and we've had two hard games away from home, but it was a bit disappointing to come here and not take three points." When Rix did revert to a two-man attack at the start of the second half, it was by removing the holding midfielder, Julien Brellier, and replacing him with Stephen Simmons, a makeshift striker who is more at home in a deeper position. If the visitors improved at all thereafter, it was marginally.

They were already a goal behind in a match that was distinguished by an impoverished general standard. With passes going astray and untidy collisions resulting in the almost total absence of coherence and fluency, the respective goalkeepers, Graeme Smith and Craig Gordon, could have used an old-fashioned watchman's brazier at which to warm their hands.

It seemed that a goal would have to come about by accident and that is how it transpired. When Andy Webster fouled Jim Hamilton 25 yards from goal, Brian Kerr slid the free kick to Hamilton on the right side of the penalty area.

The striker's shot looked to have been pulled wide, but the ball was deflected straight to Brian McLean, who drilled it over the line from close range. Hearts' resurgence was largely through endeavour, rather than any notable upgrading of the level of performance. For most of the piece, indeed, they looked like an insult to the team who had driven all before them in their first eight league matches.

Like Motherwell, they appeared to be in need of assistance from an outside agency if they were to find a way past Smith. It came in the form of McLean's clumsy challenge on Webster, who had gone into the home penalty area in an attempt to offer muscle to a previously feeble Hearts attack.

Even Terry Butcher, the Motherwell manager, conceded that it was a no- argument penalty kick, and Paul Hartley made an expert job of the conversion, low to the right of Smith.

Man of the match

Brian McLean

The award is made for eccentric reasons, the Motherwell defender having provided the two moments that relieved the tedium by scoring and conceding the penalty kick that brought Hearts' equaliser. He had a rival for the "accolade" in referee Iain Brines, whose poor decisions at least got the fans out of their seats.

Taken from the Scotsman

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