London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 22 Mar 2008 Hearts 0 Falkirk 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type News of the World ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Stephen Frail <-auth Colin Brown auth-> Charlie Richmond
7 of 015 ----- L SPL H


By Colin Brown

FALKIRK strengthened their grip on a top-six finish with a battling point at Tynecastle.

With two games until the split Falkirk are three points in front of Hearts with a better goal difference and look favourites to make the top half.

Falkirk manager John Hughes outthought Steven Frail as he changed his formation in search of a point.
Yogi went with three at the back and flooded the midfield to try and frustrate Hearts — and it worked.

Visiting keeper Robert Olejnik, below, had only one save to make all afternoon as the Bairns battled hard to shut Hearts down all over the pitch.

The damning truth for Hearts is that it was too easy for Falkirk to stick to their game plan as the home side were devoid of ideas on how to break them down.

But Hughes was delighted with his side’s work-rate and the result. He said: “It was imperative for us to get something out of the game and I thought we showed good shape and were resolute and the team I put out stood up to the task.

“I thought we made some mistakes in the first 15 minutes but I always believed we could have won on the counter-attack.

“The plan was to suck Hearts in and then counter-attack them but our keeper’s hardly made a save.

“We now have five clean sheets in six games and we’ve changed the way we play slightly. I have to work to a budget and play to the team’s strengths and so we have the whole team from the strikers back working hard defensively.

“The future here is about developing young talent and Tam Scobbie and Scott Arfield are the blueprints. They are in the Scotland Under-21 side having come through the ranks.

“But I thought Darren Barr was excellent today and has been great since we made him captain. He’s become a very important player for us.”

The young Falkirk skipper was delighted with another clean sheet and said: “It’s always great to keep a clean sheet away from home and it’s a brilliant atmosphere at Tynecastle. All the boys have been great since I became captain and we’ve got a few leaders on the pitch.

“I’m superstitious talking about reaching the top six as it means so much but a point was important to us today as Hearts are a good team.

“We’ve been working more on defence in training and it’s come through in our run of clean sheets.”

Perhaps the most important moment in a desperately poor game was Barr’s brilliant block on Calum Elliot but it was another frustrating afternoon for Hearts caretaker boss Frail.

He admitted: “It was a major blow not winning and I’m frustrated. We controlled the game for long periods but always picked the wrong option in the final third.

“If we don’t make the top six I won’t be letting things peter out until the end of the season. We must build confidence as much as possible and get as many points as we can in order that we are in a decent state come the first game of next season.”

Frail also admitted he is struggling for strikers at the moment. He added: “Andrius Velicka is no longer here and Christian Nade is injured whilst Calum Elliot is struggling with his confidence.

“I hope it turns for him but it’s difficult for any player when the fans are on their back.”

Frail tried to solve his striker shortage by deploying Laryea Kingston. below, up front alongside Elliot. However, his plans were scuppered when Deividas Cesnauskis limped off after only 14 minutes forcing Kingston back into midfield with Audrius Ksanavicius coming on.


Falkirk went with an unfamiliar three-man defence and crowded the midfield with Graham Barrett the lone striker. It was clearly a line-up designed to earn a goalless draw for Hughes’ side.

But the Bairns struggled to get to grips with their new formation and Kenny Milne presented Elliot with a great chance when he left a pass-back short.

Elliot charged through the middle and as he shot left-footed the inspired Barr got back to make a terrific block.

Barrett was only inches offside as he ran onto Arfield’s pass but some of Falkirk’s defensive work left a lot to be desired.

Jack Ross miscued a pass across the defence and Saulius Mikoliunas looked certain to score. But Olejnik charged out of his box to block with his chest. It looked initially as if the keeper had misjudged the situation but he stayed big for long enough to snuff out the danger.

Falkirk settled into the game and Arfield came close from 25 yards before Barrett forced Steve Banks into a save at his near post with an angled drive.

And Hearts showed their defensive problems when Marius Zaliukas wildly sliced Ross’ cross over his own bar.

Berra blew the last chance of the disappointing first half by heading Kingston’s corner over the bar. And the second period didn’t offer much room for optimism with Elliot sending a shot at goal wildly out for a throw in.

But when Arfield’s cross broke out to Milne he had a real chance from 18 yards. However, he showed why he’s a defender with a left-foot shot that was both high and wide of the target.

Robbie Neilson’s driven cross caused a moment of panic for Falkirk as Olejnik fumbled but Barr was on hand to mop up the danger.

Falkirk were clearly happy to settle for a point and began to defend deeper but Hearts just couldn’t find a way through.

Mikoliunas had a fine burst down the right but his cross was easily intercepted while substitute Jamie Mole couldn’t improve the home side’s fortunes.

Arfield came close to threading Barrett through on goal but Banks was alert enough to come off his line and gather. So it ended honours even and Hearts look as if they will miss a place in the top six since the league split was introduced in 1998.

HEARTS: Banks, Nielson, Wallace, Berra, Zaliukas, Kingston (Screpis 88) Mikoliunas, Chesnauskis (Ksanavicius 14) Stewart, Palazuelos, Elliot (Mole 67). Subs not used: Basso, Toll, Thomson, Jonsson.
FALKIRK: Olejnik, Ross, Barr, Milne, Scobbie, Cregg, Aafjes, McBride (Riera 79) Arfield, Barrett, Finnigan (Moutinho 72). Subs not used: Supple, Latapy, Clarke, Mitchell, Moffat.

From the News of the World

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