London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 13 Sep 2008 Falkirk 2 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Dave Hammond auth-> Steve Conroy
[N McCann 3] ;[S Arfield 89]
7 of 016 Michael Stewart 71 L SPL A

McCann takes the plaudits but O'Brien's industry is key to victory

Dave Hammond at The Falkirk Stadium

NEIL MCCANN may have a place in his heart for Heart of Midlothian, but there was no wearing of it on his sleeve yesterday, as the former Tynecastle hero took just three minutes to open his Falkirk scoring account against his old side.

The goal set McCann's new side up for their first points of the season, but after Michael Stewart had levelled for the visitors, Falkirk had to wait for an 89th minute strike from Scott Arfield to secure all three points.

Rooted to the foot of the table without a point, it would have been easy to mistake Falkirk for a high-flying side. They attacked with confidence throughout and in the second half, when Hearts upped the tempo, their defence was solid.

McCann showed predatory instincts to capitalise on a Christophe Berra mistake, drilling an angled shot past Marian Kello in the Hearts goal. From there on the home side oozed confidence as they hustled the midfield and displayed push and go football and inventive running both on and off the ball.

Making his competitive Falkirk debut, 33-year-old McCann rolled back the years as he teased and taunted the club that released him in the summer from a wide right position. The goal was his first since his return to the Scottish game in 2006.

"I am ecstatic," he said. "It was special to score not because it was against Hearts, I still have a love for them, but it was important for Falkirk."

Yet Falkirk were certainly not a one-man-band. Burton O'Brien, also making his first start for the club, was constant motion in midfield. At half time a glance at the league table did indeed suggest that the paper was being read upside down.

Hearts, too, were keen to pass the ball and move quickly, switching seamlessly from defence to attack. Indeed their own debutant, Adrian Mrowiec, had a golden opportunity to level the score midway through the first half when he got the ball in space just 12 yards out on the right.

His shot went wide of the mark, although that was partly due to the way Robert Olejnik raced out of his goal to narrow the angle for the Pole.

Mrowiec was determined to be as influential for his side as McCann was for his, but instead was destined to have a frustrating afternoon. Early in the second half he did well to reach the byeline to drag the ball back, but again Olejnik was equal to the task.

It wasn't until the second half introduction of Christian Nade and Audrius Ksanavicius that Hearts really started to show why it is they, and not Falkirk, that are challenging at the top of the table.

It was not just a change of personnel that put Hearts back in contention, rather a change of shape that started to cause increasing problems for the home side.

Falkirk defended stoutly but the pressure continued to mount until the 71st minute when Stewart slammed a low drive past the despairing Olejnik from the edge of the area to level the score.

The home side were not to be denied their belated first victory of the campaign, however.

They continued to look for the breakout as much as they could and with just a minute to go where rewarded for their perseverance when Arfield drilled the ball into the net after Stevie Lovell had got round the back of the Hearts defence and pulled the ball back.

Still the action was not over, Berra hitting the bar with a late, late attempt to snatch a point back for Hearts.

Falkirk substitutions: Lovell for McCann (63), Cregg for O'Brien (81), Stewart for Barrett (83). Not used: Flinders, Latapy, Aafjes, McCaffrey. Booked: Higdon (56), McBride (70)

Hearts substitutions: Nade for Mole (51), Kasanavicius for Stewart (51), Palazuelos for Karipidis (87). Not used: MacDonald, Makela, Thomson, Rapnik. Booked: Mikoliunas (42),Zaliukas (59), Mrowiec (90)

Referee: S Conroy Att: 5,968

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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