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<-Page <-Team Sat 26 Nov 2005 Motherwell 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Daily Record ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Graham Rix <-auth Hugh Keevins auth-> Iain Brines
[B McLean 40]
21 of 025 Paul Hartley pen 90 L SPL A


Jambos agony as they miss chance to climb above Celtic: MOTHERWELL 1 HEARTS 1
By Hugh Keevins

ROBBIE NEILSON got off lightly when the referee failed to book him for diving and trying to gain an unfair advantage inside the penalty box.

So the Hearts defender should have appreciated just how lucky his team had been to play so badly and yet somehow manage to reduce the deficit between Celtic and themselves at the top of the league.

But the depth of his anger at not using Celtic's complacency to leapfrog them and re-assume pole position in the title race led to near world record use of the word disappointed during his post-match interview. It also drove him to the unwarranted conclusion that his side had been hard done by where fate was concerned. Not so.

Neilson's caution came at a time when the clock was ticking down on a woeful Hearts performance.

He opted to try a theatrical flop that might have won a BAFTA award but was never worthy of a penalty kick.

Not even from a referee, Iain Brines, whose display was as unsatisfactory as those of both sets of players, who took it in turns to be feckless, the home team claiming the first half and Hearts taking over in the second.

Neilson said: "Given Celtic's result against Dunfermline, we have to be disappointed. A draw at Motherwell might have been an acceptable result for us last season but not now.

"We had the opportunity to go back to the top of the league andwe didn't take it. I thought we could have sneaked it at the end but we didn't.

"It's a long, hard season and we've had two tough away matches on the spin at Aberdeen and Motherwell."

A summary of events would be that Hearts did nothing in the first period and trailed to a well-worked free-kick move that was finished off by on-loan Brian McLean.

Rudi Skacel was harshly booked after the break for diving when he might have been awarded a penalty for Richie Foran's clumsy challenge.

Neilson was exonerated when he decided to go for a Hollywood-style triple somersault with pike.

Then McLean finally gave away an unarguable spot-kick when he felled Andy Webster in the last minute.

Paul Hartley's composed finish gave Hearts a 33 per cent success rate under Graham Rix.That's not a pass mark.

Neilson said: "We're not getting into our stride at the beginning of matches, and I don't know what the problem is.

"We were flying at the start of the season. Maybe it's a mentality thing.

"But the fault lies with the players and not the manager.We need to be more psyched up for matches."

Hearts have visits from Livingston and Inverness Caley Thistle in quick succession. Rix's percentage rate will need to rise significantly in those games or else questions will be asked.

Questions such as the one about Michel Pospisil.The manager said the Czech was left in the stand for football reasons, despite the fact there was only one forward fit enough to start.

If Rix is empowered to behave like that, it may dispel rumours that owner Vladimir Romanov picks the team and works his coach from the back.

Rix said: "Our personnel problems dictated the way we played. Maybe we should kick off at four o'clock, given our second-half performances against Motherwell and Aberdeen. It's a worry if you don't compete for 90 minutes but at least we had the determination and belief.We must start sharper and impose ourselves on matches.

"Celtic's result against Dunfermline could be crucial to us by the end of the season That comment presupposes Hearts will still beon Celtic's shoulder come the championship run-in.

The return of Edgaras Jankauskas and Roman Bednar, a late substitute at Fir Park, will undoubtedly help make Rix's forecast look even more solid.

Neilson vouched for his powers of persuasion when the chips are down, saying: "It took a word from the boss at half-time and tactical changes to get us going. He changed the formation and put us on the front foot.

"The midfield played a greater part in the game after the break andwe started to win the second balls."

Hearts weren't winning any first balls or anything else until McLean overheated in the penalty box.

Well boss Terry Butcher said: "It was a stonewall penalty.We invited Hearts on top of us in the second half when we should have scored more goals.

"The team looked ahead to the final result without doing enough to secure it, then lost points to a split-second's hesitation. A draw with Hearts has to be considered a good result these days but I'm still bitterly disappointed."

Butcher's anger over the referee's performance was such that he asked for a private consultation out on the pitch after the fans had gone home.

The match official might have been inconsistent but the game was a severe let-down for everybody who turned up expecting two high-scoring sides to live up to their reputation for entertainment value.

They provided next to none MAN OF THE MATCH Paul Hartley (Hearts

Taken from the Daily Record

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