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Stephen Frail <-auth Alan Campbell auth-> Charlie Richmond
6 of 015 ----- L SPL H

Top six now in sight for Hughes

Hearts 0 - 0 Falkirk
Alan Campbell at Tynecastle

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for Falkirk. John Hughes' side arrived in Edinburgh hoping to secure a point and they did so easily. Hearts were aimless, and had Falkirk shown more ambition they could have secured a rare Tynecastle win.

It's an indication of how much the bar has dropped in Gorgie that the stadium announcer, Scott Wilson, felt obliged to tell the crowd: "This is a big one today, no mistake."

Excuse me? This is a club whose owner was talking about winning the Champions League two years ago. Now the height of ambition is to reach the top six of a league which includes a club in administration. And after this result, it seems Hearts can't achieve that.

Even the booing which acknowledged this probability at the final whistle was half-hearted. Not only had they watched their side huff and puff its way through 90 minutes, but they had been treated to an interview with Vladimir Romanov in the match programme which was over two months out of date.

The usual glib assurances were given, but Hearts remain - almost incredibly - without a manager. Stevie Frail has struggled manfully to cover the cracks, but this wasn't his finest game.

Needing goals he opted for a lone striker, Calum Elliot, who has struck just four this season. Mind you, it wasn't Frail who was responsible for top scorer Andrius Velicka being shipped out to Norway last month.

Nothing, in fact, more succinctly sums up the problems at Hearts than their predicament over strikers. They've come and they've gone under Romanov, and now the cupboard is bare apart from the crumbs that the likes of Elliot, Jamie Mole and Christian Nade, who was injured yesterday, can provide.

So ineffective were Hearts that Hughes, apart from the occasional rush of blood to the head, was grinning widely in the second half and even joking with the home fans behind him. With Aberdeen only managing to draw with St Mirren at Pittodrie, it was an excellent afternoon for the Falkirk manager.

"It was imperative we got a result today and didn't get beaten," Hughes said. "We did some stupid stuff in the first 15 minutes, but apart from that we were well-organised, disciplined and resolute."

Frail, by contrast, looked a little crushed. "It's a major blow for us," he said, "a real disappointment. We didn't put Falkirk under any pressure at the back."

That Falkirk, who had lost heavily on their previous visit to Tynecastle, had come for a draw was evidenced by their five-man defence - albeit that Jack Ross and Tom Scobie were under instructions to support the midfield when Hughes' side had possession.

For all their later proficiency, Falkirk were slack in the opening minutes. Had an early chance fallen to a more confident striker than Elliot it might have been different. The forward was presented with an opening in the tenth minute following sloppy play by Kenny Milne, but his shot was blocked by Falkirk captain Darren Barr.

Five minutes later the sharpness of Saulius Mikoliunas allowed the Lithuanian to latch on to a pass back, but before he could make progress Falkirk keeper Robert Olejnik rushed out of his box to make a sliding clearance. It seemed an arm made contact with the ball, but to the fury of the Hearts fans referee Charlie Richmond waved play on.

These were rare mistakes by the visitors, though, who otherwise looked calm and composed in the face of Hearts possession. There was no punch to the home side, although in fairness Frail's plans had been ripped up at the same time as the Olejnik incident when Deividas Cesnauskis limped off and had to be replaced by Audrius Ksanavicius.

Unusually for such a vital game, chances were few and far between. Mikoliunas was easily Hearts' best player, showing an appetite to match his skill, but with only Elliot, and later Mole, to aim for there was never much danger to the composed Olejnik in the Falkirk goal.

Falkirk made no complaints about wasting the few opportunities they created.

Their season is heading for an exciting climax, which is more than can be said for the home side.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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