London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Stuart Dougal
Mikoliunas Saulius [K Lafferty 37] ;[K Boyd pen 91]
17 of 023 ----- L SPL A

Ibrox tensions subside after comfortable win

HEARTS' latest visit to Ibrox would be a soothing reminder to anxious Rangers supporters that, however desperate your plight, you can take refuge in the realisation that there is always somebody worse off than yourself.
Even before visual confirmation that the Tynecastle fans probably have more concerns than their Glasgow rivals, however, the tensions and hostilities that had surrounded Walter Smith and his harassed players earlier in the week had begun to subside through the 24 hours before the match.

The arrival of Pedro Mendes from Portsmouth, the promise of the permanent return of Steven Davis from Fulham and the acquisition of Maurice Edu from Toronto and the teenager, Aaron Niguez, from Barcelona had all contributed to the general feeling that Rangers were at least taking remedial action in the wake of the calamitous elimination from Europe and the infuriating transfer of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa.

In the circumstances, the relatively untroubled manner in which they overcame their visitors would be more of a shock to Hearts followers.

Few would have expected the overall impotence that was the main feature of the visitors' endeavours, their failure to offer a genuine threat to Allan McGregor in the home goal persisting virtually throughout the 90 minutes. That would be relieved only once, when McGregor palmed out a swerving, awkward shot from Andrew Driver to the feet of Jamie Mole and the young striker placed his effort close enough to the goalkeeper to allow him to make a second save.

The visiting supporters, in fact, would become most animated when claiming a penalty kick as another strike from Driver hit the Rangers defender, Madjid Bougherra, on the hand. The Algerian was so close to Driver, however, that there was little he could have done to prevent it, and even Jamie MacDonald, the Hearts goalkeeper, agreed afterwards that the accidental moment would have been harshly judged by the award of a penalty.

Rangers were a goal ahead at that stage and would not extend their advantage until Kris Boyd had converted their penalty in injury-time, but the closeness of the scoreline was a kindness. The home team, inspired by the clever prompting of Mendes, had achieved the ascendancy comfortably and would have been further ahead but for some excellent work by MacDonald himself.

The young goalkeeper, who surely enhanced his prospects of becoming the regular first choice, twice denied Boyd, his second-half block after the Rangers striker had been sent clear on a pass from Mendes demonstrating his quickness of thought and movement.

However, Hearts could have done without the foolishness of Saulius Mikoliunas, the substitute contriving to have himself sent off within eight minutes of his replacing the disappointing Laryea Kingston in the second half.

Even if the Lithuanian may have been considered a little unfortunate to have been cautioned for 'diving' just a minute after he took the field, his late lunge at Kenny Miller – in the centre of the field, with the Rangers substitute in no position to present any kind of threat – was the height of irresponsibility.

The arrival of Mikoliunas was an indicator of the failure of manager Csaba Laszlo's 4-5-1 formation. Designed to provide mastery of the midfield, the plan foundered on the ill-advised deployment of Kingston wide on the right. As a result, the central area – containing Michael Stewart, Audrius Ksanavicius and Christos Karapidis – lacked subtlety, while Driver, in his usual place wide on the left, simply failed to produce the form of which he is capable.

Rangers were contrastingly fluent and inventive, most emphatically when Mendes had the ball. The Portuguese clearly impressed the home support with his first touch of the ball, a perceptive and perfectly executed 'dinked' pass to Andrius Velicka which set Rangers in forward motion. Mendes would deliver such passes throughout the match.

It would be the towering Bougherra, however, who would provide the service that allowed Lafferty to give them the lead with his first goal for the club. The defender's low cut-back from the right first eluded Lee McCulloch before running to Lafferty, who, from about 16 yards, placed the right-foot shot low and far to the left of MacDonald. Boyd would add the second after Miller had carried the ball past three opponents to within six yards of his target before being tripped by Lee Wallace.

Smith could hardly disguise his satisfaction with a solid performance and an excellent result at the end of a trying week, but he will be more aware than anyone that his team are far from the finished article. The most conspicuous area of concern would be attack, where Boyd and Velicka too often seem to lack the mobility to cause regular alarm in opposing defences. It is, of course, too early in the season to be making dogmatic pronouncements over the prospects of players or teams. And, in the case of Smith's possible problems in attack, with eight or nine contenders for places, he is at least not short of options.

Taken from the Scotsman

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