London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Hearts learn that football is not fair game

A CLEAR vision emerged for Hearts around 4.45pm on Saturday through the smirry drizzle descending on Falkirk: Anything achieved away from home this season will have to be earned through every second of the 90 minutes, and even then there is no accounting for the callous nature of football. The game's cruelties seldom bite as hard as they did on the Tynecastle side in this defeat.
An abundance of effort, guile and no little skill during the second half ultimately amounted to nothing as pitiless Falkirk dragged themselves off the bottom of the league with a winning goal just seconds from time. It was a harsh lesson for Csaba Laszlo's talented young team but also an indication that the hosts' pre-match position at the foot of the league was every bit as false as many suspected.

Hearts ultimately suffered for the paucity of their first-half display. They retreated at the interval 1-0 down but emerged defiantly to restore parity through Michael Stewart. Scott Arfield's decisive late strike deprived the Edinburgh club of a deserved point. For long periods of the second half, their relentless attacking overwhelmed Falkirk with Christian Nade particularly influential after replacing Jamie Mole. However, a goal on 89 minutes made for a bitter conclusion. Laszlo accentuated the positives afterwards. Nade's introduction changed the complexion of his team and Stewart was outstanding throughout, but suspicions persist that two forwards rather than one would serve Hearts better.

"If you lose a goal in the last minute it's always very hard but I think I must make a compliment for my team," said Laszlo. "We lost the three points but we didn't lose pride. I think, especially in the second half, we played very good football. We controlled the game and our opponents.

"At 1-1 we had the chance to score and we missed but the guys made a fantastic game in the second half, especially Christophe Berra and Marius Zaliukas. We worked in training on getting them to come out and give us a plus in midfield and they did that. This gave Michael Stewart the chance to go forward and be free and from this situation came our goal, a fantastic shot.

"Our opponents had two shots and two goals but I think Marian Kello did a good job. It wasn't his mistake, sometimes you just have hard luck. After 1-0, the team did not go down. We played the same football as in training and as in the games. This is the most important thing. I don't want to talk about negative things. We lost the three points but we had a very positive team in the field. This is the future, in the past maybe it wasn't there."

Previous deficiencies aside, it was difficult to understand Hearts' first-half lethargy. Polish midfielder Adrian Mrowiec looked assured and tidy on his debut but the first 45 minutes betrayed a lack of diligence from the visitors which ultimately proved costly. Laszlo described this fixture as "the most difficult game" during his pre-match press conference, insisting that Falkirk's failure to record a single point in four opening league games would make them akin to a wounded animal. Therefore, the vociferous band of travelling fans were entitled to expect a more motivated visiting team at kick-off.

"I appreciate our fans," continued Laszlo. "All the game they were behind us and they supported us very good. Now it is very important that the fans are no so angry about the team. They saw we played good football and we came back but now we have lost the three points. I don't think you can win every game but you must try. We tried and we lost."

Credit is due Falkirk for disrupting Hearts' passing game. At no point did they look a bottom-of-the-table outfit and reaped the rewards of manager John Hughes' adventurous 4-3-3 formation. Even when wide players Graham Barrett and Neil McCann retreated to form a five-man midfield during periods of Hearts dominance, Hughes sprung into action in the technical area, emerging to wave both men forward.

McCann served him particularly well during a 65-minute debut. Injury had hitherto curtailed his Falkirk career but he provided a timely contribution after just three minutes by calmly converting Barrett's cross beyond Marian Kello with his weaker right foot. Thereafter he was industrious and creative up and down the left flank against a club which will forever command a place in his heart.

"When the ball went in I was just ecstatic," he said of the goal. "It was quite special and not because it was against my old club because I still have a lot of love for Hearts. I was just delighted for the management, the team and the backroom staff that we got the win after the disappointing start we'd had." Falkirk received a minor helping hand from referee Steve Conroy, who refused Hearts two penalty claims during the second half when Nade and Berra looked to be impeded. Earlier, he bizarrely cautioned Saulius Mikoliunas for challenging Robert Olejnik in the home goal. The Lithuanian slid into a 50-50 challenge without malice and, initially, Conroy seemed to judge the incident as the honest contest it was despite Olejnik requiring treatment. Then, 90 seconds later and with play about to restart, he brandished a yellow card at Mikoliunas.

Hearts fans are entitled to wonder whether this has now become a token gesture amongst Scotland's referees whenever the winger is present.

Sour grapes weren't in evidence from the visitors at full-time. Instead, there was disappointment at the outcome and respect for Falkirk's gameplan. "I thought we started not so well and conceded a goal early. After that we woke up and created a few chances," admitted Eggert Jonsson, who seems to be adjusting comfortably to his new right-back role.

"We had chances in the first half and second half and I think we're lacking the ability to take chances and score goals.

"Apart from that, I thought we played really well in the second half and I don't think we deserved to lose playing that way. In the end, that's football."

Jonsson, sent off on under-21 duty for Iceland last week, is quickly learning the harsh realities of top-level sport. His team did likewise on Saturday but there seems little need for knee-jerk reactions. Fairness and football don't always go hand in hand, after all.

Taken from the Scotsman

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