London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 17 Mar 2007 Hearts 0 Dundee United 4 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Anatoly Korobochka <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Craig Mackay
Tall Ibrahim [B Robson 51] ;[N Hunt 60] ;[B Robson 70] ;[B Robson 78] David [4] Robertson
10 of 010 ----- L SPL H

Hearts sink to another low


Hearts 0
Dundee United 4

WITH kit bag slung over his shoulder, head drooped and shoes shuffling, Stevie Frail trudged disconsolately along McLeod Street on Saturday evening.

He had just witnessed the most comprehensive decimation of any Hearts team in the Vladimir Romanov era, and there was certainly no rush to get wherever he was going.

For no matter how the assistant coach chose to occupy himself at the weekend, there was no escaping the traumatic feelings brought by such a hefty home defeat to Dundee United. Frail has strenuously, and commendably, accentuated only positives in all his media conferences since becoming the public face of the Hearts management team earlier this month. But following the capitulation against Craig Levein's upwardly mobile side, Frail was a man without consolation.

The lack of organisation, baffling refusal to install a replacement right-back following Ibrahim Tall's dismissal, and all round antipathy about Hearts' play left supporters' ire spewing over. One inhabitant of section N lurched forward to direct his venom at Craig Gordon as the goalkeeper trooped from the field at full-time. "Where's yer f*****' heart, Gordon?" bellowed said supporter, who got his desired reaction when the club captain instantly removed his armband and hurled it in the direction of his detractor.

The message was along the lines of: "Go and do better yourself." And Gordon was correct. Dissent from the stands was certainly warranted on Saturday, as Frail openly acknowledged, but the Scottish internationalist was hardly a justified recipient given his sterling service throughout this season. Losing four goals is an all-time low point, but questioning Gordon's commitment to Hearts is like querying Steven Gerrard's dedication to Liverpool.

Ultimately, rather than any player or coach, someone involved in directing club management should be brave enough to come forward and explain this fall from grace. A fall which has taken Hearts from the Champions League qualifiers to possibly applying to enter the Intertoto Cup in less than a year.

And we aren't talking about anyone who works at Tynecastle on a daily basis here. Responsibility for the current situation lies fairly and squarely with those who prefer to remain in far-flung locations while the proverbial excrement hits the fan in Gorgie. Locations like Kaunas, for example.

Three management changes this season alone, a gargantuan squad which is utilised on a constantly rotational basis, quality internationalists leaving to be replaced by mostly inferior alternatives from eastern Europe. The impact of all of this was rammed home on Saturday. The outstanding Barry Robson displayed international credentials with a hat-trick, complemented by Noel Hunt's strike, and the majority of Jambos were well on their way home when full-time arrived in United's most emphatic win over Hearts since 1981. Some stayed on to howl and boo at players and directors, and Frail agreed wholeheartedly with their sentiments.

"It was horrendous watching the stands emptying but, if I was a fan, I'd have been the same," he said. "We don't want to patronise them in any way because fans do get patronised by people who score goals and then kiss badges and stuff like that. I can only say to them that we'll do everything we can because they shouldn't be subjected to that. It's nothing short of abysmal, it's not acceptable, and we'll need to try and put it right.

"To be honest, I can't explain it. Craig Levein obviously has his side well organised, but to lose 4-0 to a team that isn't really playing for anything is sad from our point of view. We were out-fought because Dundee United had more hunger and desire about them. You'd have to ask the players how much they're hurting. I know I am. I know the rest of the coaches are, and I'm quite sure every single fan that was in the ground is hurting. I hope the players will be hurting, because they should be."

Any player who witnessed Frail trudging away from the stadium on Saturday night would certainly have encountered a pang of guilt. Interim head coach Anatoli Korobochka will have been equally dejected following his home debut.

From a footballing point of view, the decision not to introduce a right-back when Tall was ordered off with United's David Robertson on 33 minutes cost Hearts dearly. The Senegalese appeared to aim an elbow in Robertson's direction before the midfielder aggressively squared up and went head to head with his opponent, and referee Craig Mackay had no hesitation in producing two red cards.

The hosts refused to alter their formation and continued with a three-man defence in Tall's absence, thereby asking Saulius Mikoliunas to play as an auxiliary defender on the right when necessary. Levein, having originally deployed his team using a 4-5-1, simply constructed two banks of four behind his lone forward, Jon Daly. Consequently, United coped significantly better with a man less and often looked like they still had a full quota.

"We lost a defender, but they lost an attacking midfielder. People can say we didn't fill the right-back spot, but we didn't see the point in putting a right-back on when they were only keeping one striker up front. We decided to keep two players up front and go to three at the back, but they exploited it," said Frail.

"You can sit and talk about tactics and different formations, but if you don't roll your sleeves up and fight and die for the badge then you have no chance. To me, that's the way it looked. It could have been five or six at one point. I'm not saying our players didn't try, but basically United tried harder. They wanted to win, they showed real hunger."

Hearts' starting XI contained eight different nationalities on Tynecastle's league of nations day, although, by the end, the only flags being flown by the hosts were white ones. Ironically, there was a bright beginning in comparison with the previous week at Pittodrie. Michal Pospisil skilfully weaved his way to the byline in the 19th minute and his cross looped in underneath Derek Stillie's crossbar, forcing the United goalkeeper to tip it over and avert his side's momentary concern.

Seven minutes later there was panic in the home penalty area when Christophe Berra allowed David McCracken's lofted free-kick to skim off the top of his head into Hunt's path and the Irishman's connection saw the ball rebound off Gordon's left post.

The match erupted in controversy with the dismissals of Tall and Robertson but, after that, the first half contained little that was noteworthy.

A dipping volley from Linas Pilibaitis on 50 minutes transpired as the most threatening of the afternoon from the home side, who found themselves behind 60 seconds later as United broke with devastating effect from the resultant corner. Steven Robb carried the ball forward as Hunt and Robson scurried into space on either side. With precision accuracy, he threaded a pass between Marius Zaliukas and Jose Goncalves for Robson to expertly slide past Gordon with his left foot.

The United captain was orchestrating everything, exemplified by his second goal when he strode through to collect Daly's pass and use his right foot to convert through Gordon's legs. By then, the Gorgie natives were seriously disenchanted, and few could blame them.

Hearts' response to the two-goal deficit was, again, confusing. Gary Glen, a 16-year-old youth team striker, was granted his debut from the substitutes' bench, possibly in the hope that youthful enthusiasm could prove inspirational. He entered the fray amidst widespread booing with the home defence verging upon the chaotic, but, although Christos Karipidis was introduced on 68 minutes, the three-man defence remained as Zaliukas was sacrificed.

Two minutes later United moved further ahead. Robb scampered clear of Karipidis on United's left as if he simply wasn't there, and his powerfully-driven cross whisked across goal to be converted by the unmarked Hunt at the back post.

Hearts' right-sided deficiencies were exposed again in the build-up to the fourth goal 12 minutes from time. Karipidis' marking was slack and Robson impishly strolled inside to angle the ball low into Gordon's corner with his right foot. Completing a hat-trick rounded off a perfect afternoon for the visiting captain in front of Scotland coach, Alex McLeish.

Levein, on his first return to Tynecastle as a manager, left thoroughly satisfied, but took time out to offer his condolences to those who still hold him in the highest regard. "I'm delighted with the result, but I don't take any joy in the Hearts supporters being disappointed," he said.

The most disconcerting aspect of all for Hearts fans was that 4-0 in no way flattered United.

Taken from the Scotsman

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