London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 02 Dec 2006 St Mirren 2 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Times ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Simon Buckland auth-> Charlie Richmond
Hartley Paul [S Kean 19] ;[S Kean 22]
7 of 015 Saulius Mikoliunas 1 ;Marius Zaliukas 51 L SPL A

Off-key Hearts miss Elvis

Simon Buckland at Love Street
Elvis is dead, after all. The cement Vladimir Romanov spoke of only last week turned out to be quicksand. Eastern European humour, obviously. No comment was the official line from Hearts. No credibility, better sums them up. Steven Pressley’s absence was always going to overshadow everything else, but the match itself made a decent fist of getting noticed. Four goals were shared by two teams who still haven’ t a Premierleague win between them in two months, before Hearts’ replacement captain of the day, Paul Hartley, was red carded.

“Stress can be positive or negative, it was negative before and now it’s positive,” was Valdas Ivanauskas’s cryptic view on his return as Hearts manager. In their now usual manner, Hearts formally declined to make any official comment on suggestions that Pressley has been suspended, not that anything they do say can be trusted anyway. Vladimir Romanov, the Hearts owner, was not here, nor Charlie Mann, supposedly his spokesman. David Southern, who heads the club’s communications, was refusing to communicate anything. It was left to the Scottish Players’ Union to rightly “condemn” Romanov’s Hearts. To oblivion, hopefully.

It was October 27 that Pressley first complained of “significant unrest” at Tynecastle. A fortnight later he learned of an apparent plot to strip him of the captaincy so declined to play at Falkirk. Then came the return at Inverness and the claims he had been offered a coaching post. Last Friday, after a week that saw the comeback of Ivanauskas from a still unspecified illness, and supposed calm, Pressley was informed he was not part of the squad. It is more now than a case of Hearts losing the plot. You just suspect there is one.

What effect would all this have on the team? Well, it took them 19 seconds to score a goal entirely of Lithuanian design. A diagonal pass infield from the left by Edgaras Jankauskas saw Saulius Mikoliunas reach the ball first ahead of a slow-to-react Tony Bullock for 1-0. Hearts’ support hadn’t even had time for their first chorus of “There’s only one Steven Pressley”.

St Mirren should have levelled in the fourth minute, Garry Brady setting up Simon Lappin, driving in from the left, but his overhit shot sailed so far over it almost cleared the stand. Craig Gordon remains Hearts’ most obvious asset, so good even Romanov can’t think of a reason to drop him. Yet. His one-handed stop from a Stewart Kean strike that was goalbound low to his left was exemplary.

The home team did equalise in the 19th minute when Andy Millen’s freekick saw John Sutton beat Ibrahim Tall to the ball when a certain other central defender might have done better. From the resulting lay-off, Stewart Kean had an almighty amount of time to pick his spot in the top right-hand corner, with Gordon painfully exposed. A mere two minutes later and St Mirren were ahead from the same scorer, Brady’s run through the middle culminating in him slipping a pass to his right where Kean was on hand to steer an angled drive beyond Gordon. The game was somehow matching the drama of its build up.

It was Kean’s last contribution, “imagine what we might have done if he’d stayed on the field,” said his manager, Gus MacPherson. Kean limped off with a thigh injury to be replaced by Billy Mehmet on 25 minutes, though no physical harm had come to Christoph Berra who was taken off a minute earlier for yet another Lithuanian, Marius Zaliukas. Was he hooked? Ivanauskas confirmed as much. “He’s a person and people make mistakes. It’s not about Berra, it was about the team,” he said. Hearts took a collective blow in the 34th minute when, after Bullock beat away Mikoliunas’s shot, Velicka’s follow-up was ruled offside. Neil McCann and David Van Zanten were booked after an altercation while, as half-time approached, Jankauskas, wrongly believing he was offside, shot too casually allowing Bullock to save easily.

Van Zanten was fortunate to stay on after what should have been a second booking for crunching McCann, but punishment was to come. From Hartley’s free-kick, Zaliukas nodded in for 2-2. Interestingly, the Hearts supporters acclaimed Hartley for the goal rather than the Lithuanian. They are learning. Only the woodwork prevented Hearts leading on 59 minutes, Jankauskas’s close-range effort bouncing off the bar after he had connected with Velicka’ s low driven cross.

Matters worsened for Hearts in the 75th minute when, with a trailing leg, Hartley tripped Murray and collected a second booking. It was a foul, but probably too innocuous a one to merit the caution, certainly given Van Zanten’s let-off. Hartley stomped off, seemingly struggling to find a taker for the poisoned armband. Though Gordon later denied he had refused it, it just looked that way. Robbie Neilson eventually picked it up.

There was still time for Hearts to demand a penalty when Velicka was tripped by Murray. Romanov, who has long targeted Scottish officials, would probably call it all a conspiracy, but he’s a fine one to talk about those.

Star Man: Stewart Kean (St Mirren)

Booked: Hartley 25, McCann 41, Van Zanten 42, Potter 69, Aguiar 80, Molloy 85, Mikoliunas 87 Sent Off: Hartley 75

Referee: C Richmond Attendance: 5,728

Player Ratings: St Mirren: Bullock 6, McGowne 6, Potter 5, Broadfoot 7, Van Zanten 5, Murray 6, Millen 5, Brady 7 (Molloy 70min, 5), Lappin 5, Kean 8 (Mehmet 26min, 6, Burke for Mehmet 78min, 5), Sutton 7

Hearts: Gordon 7, Neilson 5, Tall 5, Berra 5 (Zaliukas 24min, 7), Fyssas 5, Mikoliunas 6, Aguiar 5 (Brellier 83min, 6), Hartley 6, McCann 5, Velicka 6, Jankauskas 7 (Pospisil 78min, 6)

Taken from

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