London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Graeme Macpherson auth-> Iain Brines
[D Clarkson 33] ;[D Clarkson 80]
11 of 029 Michael Stewart 25 ;Audrius Ksanavicius 40 ;Saulius Mikoliunas 81 L SPL H

Hearts 3 - 2 Motherwell


It took Hearts six months to find a suitable candidate willing to become their new manager. The feeling lingered within Tynecastle on Saturday evening that they could have continued that search for another six years and not uncovered a character as intriguing and beguiling as Csaba Laszlo.

The Romanian-born Hungarian has pitched up in Gorgie, via stops in Germany and Uganda, determined to revive the fortunes of this once-proud institution whose eighth-placed finish in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League last term represented an unacceptable nadir. It is often hard to determine whether a team prospers because of, or despite of, the man in charge but, in Hearts' case, it is clear that Laszlo's influence is already being felt.

Over the summer it was argued by many, including this observer, that Hearts would need to drastically overhaul their squad to regain a competitive edge in the top half of the table. Laszlo clearly disagreed, preferring to show that it was still possible to teach old dogs new tricks.

With his only signing to date, David Obua, deemed not sufficiently ready for competitive action, Hearts lined up against Motherwell with 11 of the players who had drastically underachieved last season. The metamorphosis was quite dramatic.

Hearts, in truth, were a joy to watch. Their players looked a lot fitter, they zipped the ball about sweetly, and they defended, on the whole, robustly and as a unit. Audrius Ksanavicius, the Lithuanian playing in the hole', was a revelation, in the first half especially, and expertly linked midfield and attack.

He was unfortunate to see one early shot well snaffled by Graeme Smith in the Motherwell goal but received his reward when he bravely latched on to a defensive error, more of which later, to put his team 2-1 in front. A yellow card for simulation was the only black mark on an otherwise stellar performance.

Even more impressive was Michael Stewart. The Hearts midfielder remains something of a curiosity, graced with an abundance of natural talent but afflicted by self-doubt and a fierce, at times uncontrollable, temper. His input on this occasion, however, was all positive. He scored a fine opening goal, after sterling work by Andrew Driver, and later claimed an assist for Saulius Mikoliunas' fiercely struck winner, but it was the manner in which he controlled the match from the middle of the park that most caught the eye.

In this sort of form Stewart would seem the most obvious candidate to replace the injured Barry Ferguson when Scotland's World Cup qualifying campaign begins next month but the player, something of a deep thinker, was reluctant to forward his case for inclusion too vehemently.

"Scotland is not something I've given great thought to and it's maybe a slight on my behalf that I've not managed to get there but there are a lot of good midfielders in the country," he said.

"If I could keep a real high consistency I'd like to think it was possible but I'm not going to set any goals. It's a case of looking to do well for the club and if so I'd be happy enough with that."

A bright performance and an opening-day victory was not enough, however, to satisfy Laszlo. In his 15-minute post-match debriefing with the media, the Hearts manager revealed he had substituted Laryea Kingston due to the Ghanaian's indiscipline, in the tactical sense, and bemoaned a lack of "killer instinct" in attack, despite his team scoring three well-taken goals. An intriguing trip to Ibrox awaits Laszlo and his team - with Obua likely to feature and Ruben Palazuelos and Gary Glen both free from suspension - this weekend.

For Motherwell, it was not all doom and gloom. They contributed greatly to an entertaining contest and matched Hearts' exuberance for large swathes of the match.

David Clarkson scored two well-taken goals to twice bring his team back to level pegging and there were also impressive individual performances from the likes of Stephen Hughes and Steven McGarry.

Their greatest weakness, as acknowledged later by Mark McGhee remains in defence and the Motherwell manager confirmed they would continue to look for defensive reinforcements before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Taken from the Herald

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