|Report Index--> 2006-07--> All for 20061202
|Sat 02 Dec 2006 St Mirren 2 Hearts 2
|Daily Record ------ Report
|[S Kean 19] ;[S Kean 22]
|Saulius Mikoliunas 1 ;Marius Zaliukas 51
SHIP GOES DOWN WITH THE CAPTAIN
Vlad's plunged Hearts to new low with ban SPL
By Gary Ralston
ST MIRREN 2
APIECE of elasticated cotton designed to fit snugly round a bicep is now in danger of choking the lifeblood of future Hearts success under Vladimir Romanov.
As symbols go the vision of the captain's armband lying in the dirt at Love Street summed up the grubby attitude of the Romanov regime and its relationship with a club whose stock it may have purchased but whose soul it can never own.
The decision to dismiss Paul Hartley for a second-book able offence was harsh by Charlie Richmond but no real surprise from a ref with form in delivering junk-mail cautions.
But it left the midfielder - the vice-captain who admits he's a reluctant stand-in for Steven Pressley at the best of times - with a decision to make.
He initially took strides towards Craig Gordon but a fixed glare from his close pal told him to look elsewhere - and pronto.
Hartley quickly scanned across his team with the same precision for which he is renowned for picking holes in opposition defences but clearly didn't fancy the options.
Finally, his eyes settled on Robbie Neilson and, this time, he didn't give his Scotland teammate a chance to protest as he threw down the armband in his direction and walked off.
Welcome to Heart of Midlothian in 2006, where Romanov allows divided loyalties to flourish, debate to be stifled and where forked tongued addresses to fans coo the promise of peace when actually threatening the death of its very fabric.
Neilson, ultimate pro that he is, played the final 17 minutes with the band around his arm more, like Hartley, out of respect for his club than its owner, who has remained silent on his stunning decision to suspend Pressley.
The club skipper has also kept his counsel at this stage although his legal position prevents him speaking further after his statement of six weeks ago led directly to the current dispute which blew up again on Friday and which is likely to see him quit the club next month.
After the game Valdas Ivanauskas promised his response shortly to the situation that dominated events at Love Street, on and off the park, but he is in danger of looking even more of a lame-duck appointment than before he took time off for a stress-related illness.
Insiders say he returned to the job determined to stand up to Romanov more than ever before but less than a week after hailing Pressley as integral to his plans - echoing the owner's earlier statement to supporters, by the way - he found himself compromised by his player's suspension from a vital training session and subsequent match.
If Ivanauskas hasn't at least pondered a private rebuke of Romanov, maybe even a resignation letter itself, then the stress that did for him before will soon be stalking him again.
The absence of Pressley may make sense in the spiteful depths of Romanov's brain but it is doing his team no favours as it slides down the SPL at a rate of knots unwitnessed since he was asubmariner on the K19.
It also opens up the wider conspiracy theories about his ultimate end game, although he would need to be the greatest strategist in history to plan all this with the aim of eventually selling Tynecastle to developers.
Pressley returned last week at Inverness and helped his side keep their first clean sheet in eight games but the Hearts defence had a soft centre against St Mirren.
Christophe Berra and Ibrahim Tall were a poor second best to John Sutton and Stewart Kean, as the latter fired a first-half double despite the best efforts of Gordon, who had another marvellous match.
Hearts had taken a stunning lead after only 14 seconds when Saulius Mikoliunas reacted quickest against a sluggish Saints defence to poke an Edgaras Jankauskas cross past Tony Bullock.
But they needed a header from sub Marius Zaliukas, who replaced the out-of-sorts Berra midway through the first half, to help them secure a point as both sides have now gone a combined 16 games without a win.
Zaliukas looks a fine player, just like Berra, who is suffering from having too much thrown on his young shoulders this season. The Lithuanian defender is an imposing physical presence, a proven setpiece danger and his positional sense and pace are essential attributes if he is to go on and make the grade in the SPL and beyond.
He certainly has the potential and it's unfathomable to think he and Berra might not get the opportunity to learn further from one of the best Scottish defenders of his generation if problems remain unresolved and Pressley is allowed to go.
Actually, the first half defensive display apart, the return of Ivanauskas heralded a better balance to the Hearts side with Hartley once again dropping deep to play passes to feet with Jankauskas and Andrius Velicka lively in attack, supported by wide men Mikoliunas and Neil McCann.
For their part Saints had a terrific spell in the first half that yielded both their goals, although the game developed into a nondescript scrap after the interval.
Richmond hardly helped with a fussy, card-happy show that was as infuriating as much for the tackles he didn't punish as those he did.
Certainly Hartley, booked in the first half for a high challenge on Hugh Murray, was unlucky to walk for a clip on the same player later that surely merited only the award of a free-kick.
Mind you Ivanauskas, who says he is learning to live with good stress and ignore the bad, had little sympathy with his No.10. He said: "Paul's experienced and energetic and while his second card was for a normal foul you see often in the game.
"I had no problems with the decision because the referee didn't have an easy match.
"We wanted to win this game and we deserved the three points. I'm happy with the chances we created and we scored two goals, which is good. I'm also pleased with the spirit of the team."
Saints boss Gus MacPherson, understandably protective of the salary he draws each month, opened his post-match address with a plea not to discuss the performance of the referee.
He said: "To lose a goal in the opening 20 seconds and react the way we did was absolutely brilliant.
It was an example of the character in our side we've been speaking about for weeks and months.
"It was a wee bit scrappy in the second half because of the elements but over the piece I'm happy enough with the point."
MAN OF THE MATCH Marius Zaliukas (Hearts)
SHOTS ON TARGET
SHOTS OFF TARGET
MAN BY MAN
Tony Bullock: Helpless at both goals.
Otherwise strong and commanding. 7
David van Zanten: Stuck well to difficult task of marshalling McCann. 6
Kirk Broadfoot:Kept Mikoliunas under control and pushed forward to good effect. 6
Andy Millen: Still reads game better than almost anyone in SPL. 7
Kevin McGowne: Found Jankauskas and Velicka a handful in air. 6
John Potter: Struggled at times to cope with menace of bulky Jambos frontmen. 6
Hugh Murray: Front-foot performance kept Fyssas in check down Saints' right. 7
Simon Lappin: Eye for goal was out but some delightful deliveries. 6
John Sutton: Bully boy softened up Hearts defence for Kean to profit. 7
Stewart Kean: Two-goal hero on for man of the match before injury blow. 7
Garry Brady: Never on ball enough in busy midfield to influence game. 5
Subs: Billy Mehmet - sub was subbed after second-half injury, 5. Alex Burke - got late run-out when Mehmet went off, 2. Craig Molloy - added energy and industry as Brady's replacement, 4.
MAN BY MAN
Craig Gordon: Several excellent stops and could do little about goals conceded. 7
Robbie Neilson: Unable to penetrate as much as usual in forward areas. 6
Ibrahim Tall: Off day for defender too easy bullied on the ball by Sutton. 5
Christophe Berra: Hooked early after unconvincing start. Could he be missing Steven Pressley? 3
Takis Fyssas: Solid and steady but not one of his more thrusting performances. 6
Bruno Aguiar: Neither fish nor fowl operating in midfield comfort zone. 5
Paul Hartley: Back to playmaking best before he was rashly dismissed. 5
Neil McCann: Frustration showed but still probed patiently from left. 6
Saulius Mikoliunas: Took goal well but still needs to do more on and off ball. 6
Edgaras Jankauskas: Unselfish shift on rare injury-free start. Big influence in attack. 7
Andrius Velicka:Works channels like Trojan and a penalty box danger as well. 7
Subs: Marius Zaliukas - brought composure to centre of defence and headed a super goal, 8. Michal Pospisil - looked hungry to make impact in final 15 minutes, 3. Julien Brellier - steely resolve helped 10-man Jambos see out game, 2.
MOMENT THAT CHANGED THE GAME:
Mikoliunas' opener after only 14 seconds set the scene for what was to come.
Taken from the Daily Record
|Sat 02 Dec 2006 St Mirren 2 Hearts 2