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|Anatoly Korobochka||<-auth||Craig Swan||auth->||Mike Tumilty|
|Stewart Michael||[Kingston Laryea og 48]|
|4||of 006||Laryea Kingston 26||L SPL||A|
Jambo Kingston's Gift For Gretna
Nov 26 2007 Craig Swan Reports
LARYEA KINGSTON touched the sky with a goal from the heavens - but crashed horribly back to earth after handing gallant Gretna a deserved point in a Fir Park cracker.
Hearts' African ace missed a big chunk of his side's preparations for the Lanarkshire clash having been stuck in a London airport while returning from midweek international duty withGhana.
But Kingston was soaring high with a sublime first-half strike to put Steve Frail's troops on the flight path to maximum points against the SPL basement boys.
However, Gretna refused to be grounded and the Tynecastle midfielder was the unfortunate own-goal sinner as David Irons' side fought back superbly in the second period to earn only their fifth point of the league season.
Hearts could have no complaints. Having initially managed to cope with the early loss of midfield madman Michael Stewart to a red card, they were pushed back on their heels by the fighting SPL new boys and Irons' side fully deserved to secure the point that halted an awful run of seven straight defeats.
For Hearts, it was a chance missed. Boss Frail reckons they can mount a title challenge but that is surely unrealistic with the inconsistency they display.
It was a game full of action. Irons made switches from his starting line-up in the previous outing against Hibs. Portuguese striker Henry Makinwa was handed a debut in attack and French defender Aurelin Collin returned from the treatment table with Allan Jenkins dropping to the bench and no place for Brendan McGill.
Hearts also made alterations, despite thumping Aberdeen 4-1 in their last game. Frenchman Anthony Basso returned in goal at the expense of Steve Banks and Marius Zaliukas slotted in for Ibrahim Tall.
Influential playmaker Kingston was back from a spell on the sidelines to make his impact with Lithuanian Andrius Velicka retiring to the bench.
Ironically, in a season of struggles, one of Gretna's high points in the campaign had come in the 1-1 draw at Tynecastle back in August.
Early on, it didn't look as if a repeat was on the cards. Hearts were at it right from the outset and in the opening exchanges Gretna had a triple escape after failing to deal with a miscued Kingston corner.
Keeper Greg Fleming bravely blocked Zaliukas' first effort and defender Chris Innes hurled himself in front of Christian Nade's follow up before Stewart relieved the tension by driving high into an empty stand.
Icelandic kid Eggert Jonsson was next to set his sights too high after the busy Innes headed clear another Kingston centre.
Gretna skipper Paul Murray did miss a decent opening when he failed to properly connect with raiding Ryan McGuffie's cross but mainly the traffic was heading in Fleming's direction.
The inventive Audrius Ksanavicius drove straight at the keeper when he had options inside and Nade was guilty of a glaring headed miss from Andy Driver's outstanding delivery.
Hearts were bossing it but their momentum was temporarily halted in the 20th minute when Stewart was ordered off.
The midfielder tangled with Danny Grainger after a challenge and although both players seemed to be at it, Stewart's arm swing came right in front of referee Mike Tumilty.
Hearts could have hit the wall but instead they upped the tempo and soared into the lead six minutes after the dismissal.
Driver escaped on the left flank and although his cutback eluded Ksanavicius, Kingston was lurking on the edge of the area.
He had options but didn't need them as he curled a right-foot effort over Fleming and into the net.
It was a hammer blow to Gretna but they staged a mini-revival in the lead-up to the interval. Hearts keeper Basso saved headers from Fabian Yantorno and James Grady before McGuffie came within inches of the equaliser.
Seconds from the break, the Gretna powerhouse rose to meet a Yantorno corner but the ball skidded just wide.
But Gretna had taken huge encouragement from the spell and levelled within four minutes of the restart.
Yantorno was devastated as Basso touched his terrific strike round a post but Hearts fell asleep at the corner, allowing Evan Horwood space to fire a cross into the danger area from a quickly-taken set-piece.
Kingston was isolated at the far post and helpless as the ball cannoned against him and into his own net. All of a sudden it was Hearts who were on the ropes.
McGuffie would surely have scored had he been able to take Grady's pass in his stride and the Jambos were losing their cool.
Jonsson did have a shot deflected narrowly wide but Gretna were standing up to the big boys and the Tynecastle team were struggling to handle it.
Ksanavicius escaped with a booking for wrapping his hands round Grady's neck and the sight of the wee man defying a one-foot disadvantage to square up to Hearts giant Jose Goncalves in the ensuing melee was worth the admission money alone.
But try as they might Gretna couldn't get the crucial second goal as Hearts defence dug deep. But Frail's team almost nicked it in a frantic finish.
Velicka and Driver both came close but in the end Gretna held out for a fully deserved point.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Chris Innes (Gretna)
MAN BY MAN
Greg Fleming: Made superb early block from Zaliukas. Couldn't do much to stop Kingston's goal and was relatively solid 7
Ryan McGuffie: Charged up and down right and almost scored with a header 6
Evan Horwood: Had to backtrack with Kingston but forced his foe into an own goal in one of several fine second-half centres 7
Aurelin Collin: Didn't have easy start but things got better with one-man advantage 6 Chris Innes: Overworked early and made some terrific blocks. Superb performance 8
Danny Grainger: Fought like a tiger and was involved in the incident that led to Stewart being red carded 8
Paul Murray: Skipper patrolled midfield and tried to keep Gretna ticking but couldn't find his passing range 5
Gavin Skelton: Full of effort. Has been better but no complaints over display 6
Fabian Yantorno: Tried to make things happen in the pocket behind front two. Looked dangerous and was thwarted by Basso three times 7
James Grady: Usual clever movement. Touch was good and link play excellent 7
Henry Makinwa: First outing for the Nigerian striker who will need time to find his feet in SPL. But worked hard, looks keen and is certain to improve 6
Subs: David Graham - given final 32 minutes and busy enough, 4. Mickael Buscher - on for final four minutes, 2. Allan Jenkins - given 140 seconds, 1.
MAN BY MAN
Anthony Basso: Decent game. Helpless at own goal but made some fine saves 7
Christophe Berra: Rightly being tipped for senior international honours in near future. A first-class captain's display 7
Jose Goncalves: Kept instincts for charging forward in check after Stewart red. Dragged infield on occasion but did okay 6
Michael Stewart: Rave reviews for Scotland B star in midweek but lasted just 20 minutes after swipe at Grainger 2
Eggert Jonsson: Fine showing. Has talent and composure to go a long way 7
Robbie Neilson: Usual calm showing and positional discipline allowed Kingston freedom to get forward 6
Audrius Ksanavicius: Always a danger with his clever movement but lucky to avoid a red after grabbing Grady by the throat 6
Andrew Driver: Created goal for Kingston and pace in the channels was a feature of Hearts' good work 7
Laryea Kingston: Master with ball and scored peach of an opener but put through own net early in second half and faded 7
Christian Nade: Led the line and missed excellent first-half chance. Strength enables midfield runners to play off him 5
Marius Zaliukas: Returned to centre-half and did most of the simple things properly 6
Subs: Andrius Velicka - on in 58 minutes and could have netted a late winner, 3. Ruben Palazuelos - given only the final few seconds, 2.
Laryea Kingston's sublime strike for the opening goal
Taken from the Daily Record
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