London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 26 Jan 2008 Aberdeen 0 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Stephen Frail <-auth Frank Gilfeather auth-> William Collum
14 of 026 Christian Nade 55 L SPL A

Christian aids recovery mission

Aberdeen 0 / Hearts 1
Frank Gilfeather at Pittodrie

IT WAS only a couple of days ago that Jimmy Calderwood, the Aberdeen manager, was predicting that Hearts were still capable of challenging for third place in the Premierleague. The Tynecastle men proved him right yesterday with a narrow but deserved victory that took them to within six points of the Dons in the league table and set themselves up for Wednesday's CIS Cup semi-final against Rangers.

An opportunist goal early in the second half from Christian Nade, their on-loan striker from Sheffield United, followed an unacceptable lapse in concentration from Aberdeen new boy Stuart Duff, making his debut for the Pittodrie side following his move from Dundee United just over a week ago.

Just inside his own half, the midfielder, who had replaced the injured Scott Severin late in the first half, tried a pass-back to his goalkeeper, Jamie Langfield, which fell woefully short. Nade collected and gleefully tucked it away.

For Hearts coach Stevie Frail it was no more than his side deserved, despite the Dons' late surge. He beamed with pride during the post-math press conference as Hearts recorded their first successive wins since last September and admitted he hoped there would be no transfer window activity for his star player, Andrius Velicka.

"Our back four has been the consistent thing about our team," he said. "The changes we've had to make there has been either tactical or through injury and suspension but we're all defending now and defending from the front and pressing teams higher up the pitch.

"It wouldn't have been nice going into Wednesday's semi-final on the back of a defeat or a draw because we came for the three points. We look forward to what should be a great game and one we are capable of winning.

"Velicka, whether or not he plays well, keeps churning out performances of 100% committment and work-rate and he usually chips in with a goal. He summed up the the whole spirit I'm looking for. You want to keep your top players because he's been great for us. We want to keep all our good players."

For Calderwood, the mood was not so upbeat. He felt the that 0-0 written would have been fair, though he insisted the Dons dominated proceedings without creating too man scoring opportunities.

Of the Duff blunder, he said: "Nade got the break and that's the kind of goal that wins these sort of games. I didn't think Nade tried to close down the keeper but, fair play, he got the break and scored his goal comfortably. I thought Duff was very unlucky. If my defender had stayed behind Nade then it wouldn't have happened but we tell them to go up the half-way line and you're going to get these days, I'm afraid. It was a sore one."

These are interesting times for both sides. Despite the defeat, Aberdeen still flirt with the potential of a lofty position in the league table as well as an involvement in the two domestic cup competitions and the Uefa Cup, in which they will face Bayern Munich twice next month.

Before yesterday's game, the Tynecastle side, on the other hand, were able to boast just one league win - against Hibs last weekend - since their 4-1 demolition of Aberdeen in Edinburgh on November 11.

The crispness of Aberdeen's passing and the speed at which they got forward was impressive and proved problematic for their opponents, a fact underlined by Jeffrey de Visscher's 20-yard strike from the edge of the area which tested Steve Banks, the Hearts goalkeeper.

The Dutch midfielder, in confident mood, came close a few moments later but, like his team-mates, would have been horrified as they watched Nade skip past Zander Diamond before squaring to Andrius Velicka whose strike from close-range was stunned by Langfield before Jackie McNamara stepped in to clear the danger.

The Pittodrie side were forced to make two changes during the course of the first half. Derek Young, who had hurt his back in the pre-match warm-up, struggled to continue after 28 minutes and made way for Chris Maguire while Duff was handed his Aberdeen debut as a replacement for Scott Severin, injured in an earlier tussle with Velicka.

The positional and tactical changes Calderwood had to introduce looked like they might have presented their opponents with the initiative but he stuck to his guns in encouraging his side to continue with their attacking style, though there was consternation in the dugout as a Velicka overhead kick came too close for comfort as Langfield produced a dramatic one-handed save low at the post.

The Hearts striker was once more thwarted by the agility of the Pittodrie keeper within the opening few minutes of the second half, stopping his ferocious angular drive at the near post after Ruben Palazuelos' clever chip into the penalty box had created the opportunity.

But it was Nade who made the breakthrough for the visitors in the 55th minute. His attempted pass-back fell well short and Nade punished his mistake, beating Langfield with a precise strike.

There was a predictable determination from Aberdeen to level the score but it frequently left them open to the counter and Velicka was a constant worry to the Dons' defence. Even after he was substituted, the Tynecastle side proved dangerous and Langfield rescued his team once more with 12 minutes remaining as he blocked a 10-yard shot from Audrius Ksanavicius with his outstretched leg.

Then, with four minutes remaining there were stunning saves at each end.

First, Langfield beat down a powerful drive from Beniusis before the Dons raced up the park with a Richard Foster bullet of a shot from 25 yards producing acrobatics from Banks.

It was a pulsating 90 minutes during which challenges were uncompromising and tempers frayed. But in the end it was Hearts who left with smiles on their faces as Frail now looks to reinvigorate his side.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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