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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Stephen Frail <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> John Underhill
Glen Gary [G Skelton 93]
5 of 010 ----- L SPL A

Sorry end to wasteful season for Hearts

Gulf in class is plain to see as current crop of Jambos squander talents two years to the day since Scottish Cup was lifted.

TWO slovenly moments of play from Kestutis Ivaskevicius epitomised Hearts' season last night. At the end of a feckless campaign, even seeing off relegated Gretna became unworkable for the Edinburgh club.

Ivaskevicius, a second-half substitute, first shot weakly at goalkeeper Artur Krysiak on 79 minutes. He had manoeuvred into position at the back post for Larry Kingston's low cross but, from four yards, his shot betrayed a lack of conviction which has characterised Hearts' season.

In stoppage time a speculative long ball from Ryan McGowan, making his competitive debut, bounced favourably for the Lithuanian to strike just outside the Gretna penalty area. Again he laboured getting on to it, and seconds later Gavin Skelton was collecting Nathan Taylor's pass at the opposite end before lashing the winning goal beyond Steve Banks. It was the culmination of a year to forget in which too many Tynecastle players have been guilty of wastefulness, mostly relating to their own talent. Perhaps poignantly, this match took place two years to the days since a considerably more celebrated Hearts team won the Scottish Cup by defeating Gretna on penalties. The irony of Skelton's missed spot-kick that day and his winner last night wasn't difficult to miss.

Gary Glen's ordering off on 25 minutes had a debilitating effect on the visitors' attacking intentions but losing the decisive goal in the 93rd minute left interim manager Stephen Frail cursing his players.

"Disappointing doesn't even come close," he said. "If you were a betting man, you could have bet on that the way our season's gone. From day one, the Monday night game against Hibs, it just summed up everything that's happened this year.

"I don't think we played anywhere near the way we can. They started the match better and when Gary got sent off we upped the tempo.

"In the second half we had two or three good chances and should have been 1-0 up.

"The lad Ivaskevicius should have shot late on but didn't and within 20 seconds they are 1-0 up. I think that 20-second period sums up our whole season.

"I've said to the players that, whoever is here in terms of management, it has to be 100 per cent better. That isn't good enough for us. It's a sorry end to a sorry season."

Glen was red carded following an altercation with Gretna's Craig Barr. The pair strenuously contested a loose ball before becoming entangled near the main stand touchline.

The teenager's foot appeared to catch his grounded opponent on the head as he strove to free himself.

He was rightly ordered off but watching referee John Underhill indicating a stray elbow as the reason was somewhat baffling.

Gretna's application throughout the match facilitated a deserved victory to complete their maiden SPL campaign, and possibly their entire existence. The hosts' fervour was immediately obvious from kick-off as they hustled and harried their way through the opening quarter-hour until Nicky Deverdics passed up a blatant goalscoring opportunity. Christos Karipidis misjudged Rhys Meynell's low cross and Deverdics found himself unmarked but could only stroke the ball past Banks' left post from an eight-yard distance.

The evening then swung towards a more controversial tone with Glen's dismissal. Skelton indulged in a similar, if less obvious, offence on 34 minutes but was only cautioned, causing the travelling support to justifiably question what differences Underhill saw between the incidents. Gretna's dominance continued through to the interval by dint of some insightful attacking movement which Hearts found difficult to counter.

Banks smothered a header from Barr before Rostyn Griffiths had a goal disallowed for offside, emphasising the notion that the visitors were fortunate to reach the interval without conceding. Their only noteworthy first-half moment was a speculative shot from Deividas Cesnauskis which Greg Fleming parried safely away.

Hearts re-appeared with evidently greater desire and fashioned a fine opening on 68 minutes through a combination of Kingston and Jamie Mole, the latter playing as a lone striker following Glen's departure. Their interchange of passes resulted in Mole striking a powerful effort at Fleming, which the goalkeeper did well to repel.

McGowan was introduced for his competitive debut to replace Marius Zaliukas, the Lithuanian departing with a head injury. Moments later, the young Australian instigated Hearts' best forward foray of the evening. He skilfully meandered from defence past a plethora of opponents to arc a loping pass in behind the Gretna defence for Kingston. His low cross landed perfectly for Ivaskevicius to tap home at the back post, however the Lithuanian somehow contrived to miss with a tame strike four yards out which Krysiak, the substitute goalkeeper, stopped.

From then on, anyone could have scripted Gretna's finale. "It was emotional and a sad day, really," said Skelton, who left the pitch through a guard of honour organised by his colleagues. "I was touched by what the lads did, there was no need for that because it's not about me, it's about Gretna Football Club," he continued.

"Hopefully they will survive but I can't praise the lads and the management enough over the last few weeks. It's been a difficult time and we've all grown into stronger people for it. It's two years to the day since I missed that penalty. It's funny how things happen like that. The lads are saying Roy of the Rovers and stuff like that. I just wanted to smash it as hard as I could.I knew it was going in before it got there and it was a nice way to finish. If this is the end, at least we've finished on a high."

Fir Park officials opened only the main stand, resulting in Hearts' lowest-ever SPL crowd of 1090. The echoes around the empty stands made for an eerie ambience at times but Frail's haunted look at full-time was for vastly different reasons.

His own position remains uncertain for next season but he already knows the areas in which the team requires strengthening. "I thought young Jamie Mole worked incredibly hard but he's a young lad, as is Glen. We need help up there for them," he explained.

"I wish the season was still going on to a degree because it gives you time to try and put things right. But I'm also glad it's finished. It's going to be a long summer."

Taken from the Scotsman

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