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Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Iain Brines
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25 of 029 Michael Stewart 25 ;Audrius Ksanavicius 40 ;Saulius Mikoliunas 81 L SPL H

Miko: There's more to come from me at Hearts

IT'S becoming increasingly apparent that Saulius Mikoliunas only deals in spectacular goals, the raking piledriver being his speciality. He arced a contender for goal of the season beyond Graeme Smith on Saturday to secure Hearts' victory over Motherwell as if to emphasise this trademark.
Supporters have had cause to question Mikoliunas' application and desire in the not-too-distant past, however, the Lithuanian winger has signalled his intent for the new season emphatically. He wants more goals, be they long-range howitzers or two-yard tap-ins.

Previous screamers against Hibs and Celtic spring to mind when recalling the player's finest moments in maroon, but it's been some 18 months since those strikes threatened to burst the Tynecastle rigging. This year, Miko's sights are set on greater consistency after just one solitary goal during last season's ill-fated campaign.

At a time when Hearts are striving to unearth a reliable scorer, greater contributions from Mikoliunas and others in midfield are most welcome.

The 24-year-old contends with Larry Kingston, Mirsad Beslija and his compatriot Deividas Censauskis for the right-sided berth and, if able to reproduce his opening-day feat against Motherwell regularly, manager Csaba Laszlo will find him a difficult man to exclude.

His conviction to take Michael Stewart's pass and thump the ball into Smith's top corner showed a player with renewed faith in his capabilities, which supporters must pray doesn't subside in the weeks ahead. It hasn't been an easy ride for Mikoliunas in Edinburgh and the destabilising effect of SFA bans and barbaric verbal abuse from opposition fans has often manifested itself on the pitch.

Saturday may yet evolve as the turning over of a new leaf, in tune with Laszlo's galvanising effect on the team. Miko's goals remain rare. But when they arrive, they tend to be worth the wait.

"It's one of my best goals, similar to the goal against Hibs," he said of the winner against Motherwell.

"I think my best was maybe against Celtic because that was a massive game and I hit the shot from long range. But Saturday was a great feeling

"As I was running through, I thought, 'we need to win'. When we conceded a goal late in the game it was 'oh no'. We couldn't start with a losing habit, we needed a win to begin the season.

"I got a fantastic ball from Michael Stewart and when I got one-on-one I decided to shoot and try to score. Thankfully, it worked. A couple of my team-mates were in space and free but everybody was happy I decided to shoot.

"My aim for this season is to score more goals. It doesn't matter if it's an outstanding goal or not, I just want to help the team and scoring is the best way to do that."

Only seconds earlier, Mikoliunas had attempted to gee up Juho Makela after some cringe-worthy ball control handed Motherwell possession and David Clarkson the opportunity to equalise for a second time in the match.

"It was Juho's mistake but we have spoken a lot about team spirit. If one of us makes a mistake, there are others trying to help him. On this occasion it was his error but I said to him to get his head up after we conceded the goal. Then I scored.

"I was a little surprised. When they brought the score back to 2-2, I think they expected to maybe score again and win the game. But I saw gaps in their defence and took my chance. I always look forward and try to attack, I don't look behind."

That attitude isn't likely to go down too well with Laszlo's calls for tactical discipline. Nonetheless, if a modicum of freedom results in strikes like Mikoliunas' winner then the Hungarian might treat us to a few more of the touchline dances he performed at the weekend. Asked why his goals almost invariably tend to be extravagant in nature, Mikoliunas gives a puzzled look.

"I don't know why that is, it just happens that way.

"I practice shooting in training, from long range and closer in. Then in games I will shoot if the chance is there," he said.

His celebrations gave the impression of a more unified Hearts team under Laszlo.

Mikoliunas simulated rocking a baby after scoring – his wife gave birth three months ago – before kissing the club crest on his new No.7 shirt. All the while, an immovable grin was spread from one rosy cheek to another.

"The passion comes from the manager, his influence is big," he explained.

"I think we really deserved to win the game. We created a lot of chances and played good football. We showed passion, determination and a big team spirit, everything that we need was there on the pitch I think.

"Last season Stephen Frail took over after winter and he did a good job. He gave us confidence, I think we were just unfortunate not to qualify for the top six. Our spirit was definitely better. Since the new manager came our confidence and spirit have improved again. He told us when he came in that we had a new start and new aims and everybody is just on a high right now."

Unsurprisingly, it was Laszlo's dressing-room address which set the tone for the performance against Motherwell. "He said that we needed to be men and be hungry for the win. He told us we had a responsibility to the fans, to the city, to our families and to ourselves," revealed Mikoliunas. "Now we have the victory we will look to Rangers next week. It is a massive game for us, everyone will expect things from us because we won our first match and Kaunas also beat Rangers. People think we will win as well but I expect them to change their determination and make it difficult for us.

"Our manager will tell us how to beat Rangers."

If in doubt, getting the ball and whacking it past Allan McGregor Mikoliunas-style should suffice.


March 2005: Dismissed for barging into assistant referee Andy Davis during Rangers' 2-1 win at Tynecastle. He was banned for five games, later reduced to three.

December 2005: Red carded again against Rangers, this time at Ibrox.

October 2006: Ordered off in a 2-2 draw with Hibs at Easter Road.

December 2006: Avenges that dismissal with a fine winning goal against Hibs in 3-2 Boxing Day win.

January 2007: Stunning strike from distance isn't enough to prevent Celtic winning 2-1 at Tynecastle.

September 2007: Earns Lithuania a penalty by falling theatrically under Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher's challenge.

August 2008: Another spectacular goal secures a 3-2 opening day victory for Hearts against Motherwell.

Taken from the Scotsman

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