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|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 22 Mar 2008 Hearts 0 Falkirk 0||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Stephen Frail||<-auth||Barry Anderson||auth->||Charlie Richmond|
|2||of 015||-----||L SPL||H|
Have Hearts surrendered all ambition?
By BARRY ANDERSON
Hearts 0 - 0 Falkirk
"BRING back Beniusis" came the cry as full-time neared. Hearts, apparently, got that desperate. Watching his side fail to register a single shot on target throughout an abject 90 minutes, one supporter was forced, albeit sarcastically, to contemplate the outrageous.
Stephen Frail's attack-minded team selection did little to imbue his side with the necessary craft to unlock resolute Falkirk. Hearts' chances of securing a top-six finish are consequently somewhat reduced with just two games left until the SPL's infamous split. Over in Kaunas, Ricardas Beniusis must be thankful to be well away from it all.
Sent home to Kaunas to think again by Hearts management last week, Beniusis, in truth, would have done nothing to inspire the hosts on Saturday. Infinitely better players – a half-fit Larry Kingston and Ruben Palazuelos, for example – tried manfully to conjure a goalscoring chance, but ultimately fell short.
Falkirk came not to lose, succeeded, and might even have secured a priceless victory on the break as the afternoon dragged on.
Following a performance like this, one can only wonder what plans the ever-insightful Hearts hierarchy have for the short to medium-term future.
Drawing with St Mirren and Falkirk doesn't become such a well-supported club – one with the undoubted potential to be Scotland's third best, but which is suffering from gross mis- management by the owner and his conglomerate of hapless henchmen.
How Frail is expected to qualify the team for the top six with only Calum Elliot, Jamie Mole and the occasionally-fit Christian Nade as strikers, is beyond most observers. It might even be beyond Vladimir Romanov, his son Roman, or any other club director if they bothered to turn up and try formulating a properly-informed opinion on the matter before the end of this feckless campaign.
As diplomatic as ever, Frail could only bemoan the shortcomings of those at his disposal on Saturday. Deep down, he knows he is overseeing a side with an inherent need for a striker, although he stopped short of advocating Beniusis' return.
"We were short up front on Saturday because Nade was out," explained the interim manager.
"For anyone who saw the Inverness game, he linked really well with Calum.
"He has this pelvis problem otherwise he'd be playing, so we do lack options up there. Nade and Elliot did well at Inverness but we can't get them on the pitch for a sustained period.
"Calum is suffering from a lack of confidence, big time. I still believe the boy's a good player, you don't just turn into a bad player. I think he's intelligent but he's definitely suffering from a lack of confidence and no wonder.
"It's difficult for the lad. He performed well up at Inverness under a little less pressure away from home. Nade got all the plaudits, but Calum worked extremely hard that day and scored two goals. I just hope it turns for him."
Rather than turning for him on the weekend, supporters turned against him – a minority of home fans jeered Hearts' 68th minute substitution, though it wasn't clear if it was due to Elliot departing or Jamie Mole coming on.
"That doesn't help any player," continued Frail. "The fans are entitled to come, pay their money and criticise.
"They're just as frustrated as the rest of us, but it doesn't help having the fans on players' backs. It actually makes it worse. We haven't lost the game but it's a major blow, a major disappointment and I'm very frustrated.
"Even if we don't make the top six, I won't be letting anyone sit and think we can just peter out through to the end of the season and maybe finish eighth or ninth. That isn't acceptable. We need to finish as high as possible. We want to be in the top six but it won't be a successful season even if we do."
Frail's plans were hindered considerably when injury forced Deividas Cesnauskis off after 15 minutes. Kingston retreated from his advanced midfield role as Audrius Ksanavicius took over in support of Elliot.
Referee Charlie Richmond had sided with Falkirk keeper Robert Olejnik seconds earlier in a contentious incident five yards outside the visitors' penalty area. Saulius Mikoliunas latched on to a through ball and unleashed a first-time shot which appeared to strike the outrushing Olejnik around the upper arm, yet play continued.
Play also continued a minute from the break when Patrick Cregg, the most impressive player in an accomplished Falkirk side, made a studs-first tackle on Robbie Neilson. This time, Richmond witnessed everything and even spoke to Cregg to warn him off a repeat. Giving a foul, though, seemed beyond the official.
Between those incidents, Lee Wallace breathed easy after tripping Graham Barrett and denying the Falkirk striker a clear run at goal – Barrett had been flagged offside a millisecond before the full-back's misdemeanour.
"I feel a little bit let down because I don't think Barrett was offside when he was sent through and clipped," complained John Hughes.
"I'll have to look at it again but I feel the assistant referee has got that wrong. But I'm delighted for my boys because of the way we played.
"That was Patrick Cregg's best game for us and Kevin McBride was excellent alongside him. Boys like Tam Scobbie, Scott Arfield and Darren Barr, who have come through our academy, epitomise what we're trying to do at Falkirk."
In the context of the top six, a point was considerably more useful to Hughes than Frail, given that Falkirk remain three points clear of Hearts in sixth place.
"The overall summing up is that we picked the wrong option or played the wrong pass or cross in the final third and didn't put Falkirk under enough pressure at the back," said Frail.
"I thought we controlled the game for large periods without having any real chances at goal.
"We had to change things after 15 minutes when Cesnauskis went off. Ksanavicius is accustomed to that role so we put Larry wider on the right. I think we huffed and puffed for large periods.
"Ksanavicius had a cross near the end in acres of space and played it long to the back pos
It could also be construed that allowing Roman Bednar, Michal Pospisil and Andrius Velicka to leave Tynecastle this season were similarly careless manoeuvres.
"If Velicka had been playing on Saturday, were there any chances he could have turned into a goal? I don't think there were," said Frail.
"He's gone, he's no longer a Hearts player and we can't hanker for things that aren't here. We can't keep coming in after every draw or defeat saying 'I wish we had Velicka' because where would we stop?"
Equally, Hearts can't continue selling off their primary assets. In all seriousness, Beniusis was never one of them, but one has to wonder where it will stop and where the club will be languishing when it does.
Taken from the Scotsman
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