London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 13 Dec 2008 Celtic 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Paul Forsyth auth-> Charlie Richmond
[S McManus 79]
15 of 032 Andrew Driver 23 L SPL A

Hearts' assets show their value

Paul Forsyth
at Celtic Park
McManus 79

Driver 23
HEARTS' long-suffering supporters lead a melancholy existence these days. Here was another rousing display by their revitalised team, further evidence that their manager, Csaba Laszlo, might just be the man to break the Old Firm stranglehold, and yet it was tinged once again with regret, not just because they were denied by Celtic's late equaliser, but because the more they play like this, the more painful it will be when circumstances off the pitch conspire against them.

They have been through it all before under George Burley, and the signs are they will go through it again, especially when their most valuable players continue to present Vladimir Romanov with a solution to the club's notorious cash-flow problems. At Celtic Park yesterday, Christophe Berra was flawless at the back, Andy Driver scored the goal by which Hearts led for most of the match and Laryea Kingston made a nuisance of himself in more ways than one, but all three could be gone in a matter of weeks, sold to the highest bidder.

And to think that Hearts have come so far, with serious potential to split the big two. Driver, a persistent menace down the left, admitted that the team had been arguing in the dressing room afterwards, unsure as to whether they should have protected their advantage or gone for the jugular. "Normally when you come here and get a point, you are not too disappointed, but I am today," said Laszlo, whose team eventually succumbed to a header by Stephen McManus 11 minutes from the end.

It was Hearts' sixth consecutive league match unbeaten, another of the courageous performances they are wont to produce in Glasgow's east end, but it could have been a sixth straight win. Although they were hanging on for dear life at the end, when Aiden McGeady fired wide and substitute Georgios Samaras turned a shot over the bar, it was nearly a memorable Old Firm double for the side who beat Rangers a fortnight ago. Having dominated the first half, they were denied only by a frantic finale. When Samaras rose to return Shunsuke Nakamura's cross back into the six-yard area, McManus was first to respond, putting his head in where it hurts.

Celtic, too, had mixed feelings. A point saved, perhaps, but a missed opportunity to capitalise on Rangers' draw at Tannadice earlier in the day. With Shaun Maloney sustaining a hamstring injury that is likely to keep him out of the forthcoming Old Firm game, Strachan has had better days. "We were too predictable in the first half, our worst performance for a long, long time," he said. "We built ourselves up to average in the second half."

For all the uncertainty at Tynecastle, where tales of deferred wages, unpaid debts and January firesales continue unabated, Laszlo has somehow managed to bring stability. Consistency of team selection, and a nucleus of Scottish players to boot, has coincided with a sequence of results that recalls something of the Burley era. Here, the Hungarian manager settled on the same formation that so upset Rangers, with only Eggert Jonsson coming in for the suspended Lee Wallace and Janos Balogh replacing Jamie MacDonald in goal. The three-pronged support of Christian Nade bemused Celtic who seemed, in the first half at least, incapable of handling the width provided by Driver and Kingston.

The latter is one of the many players expected to be ushered out of Tynecastle next month in exchange for a hefty wad. A slippery customer prone to the odd eccentricity, he revealed the full repertoire in his creation of the game's opening goal. From out on the right touchline, he wriggled his way past an opponent, slipped the ball through Scott Brown's legs, and when a gap presented itself, swiped clumsily at the half-chance. What looked suspiciously like a hopeless shot, somehow slid across the penalty spot, behind the full-back and into the path of Driver. Without so much as a single claim for offside from the home side's confused defenders, the Hearts winger waited until Artur Boruc had committed himself, before calmly slotting it past the goalkeeper.

It was a finish of some maturity by another of the Edinburgh club's prize assets. On a day when a statue of Jimmy Johnstone was unveiled outside the main entrance, the visitors' crouching, jinking flyer was the most adventurous player on either side. Quick, clever and composed, he was Hearts' main outlet during a first half in which they did all the running. When Gary Caldwell gave away possession on the halfway line, the winger showed strength of mind and body to run with the ball, deep into his opponents' penalty area. His low shot across Boruc was heading for the bottom corner until Celtic's goalkeeper palmed it round the post. Typically, Driver was up and after the ball in a shot, taking a corner that caused more mayhem. A header by Marius Zaliukas might have crossed the line had one of his own players, Nade, not obstructed its progress.

Add to all that a Zaliukas shot that whistled wide, as well as a blocked Nade effort, and there was no denying the merit in Hearts' half-time advantage. Celtic raised their tempo after the interval, but could not for the life of them extract much change out of Berra and Zaliukas. It was substitute Lee Naylor who gave Balogh his first save of the match, with 17 minutes left.

And all the while, Hearts remained dangerous on the break, albeit with less frequency. Kingston, meanwhile, was still a box of tricks, not all of them with the ball. He had been guilty of persistent fouling throughout the first half, but found his way into the referee's book only after a relatively harmless offence early in the second.

Minutes later, he was responsible for another reckless challenge on Aiden McGeady, as if he hadn't ridden enough luck. Referee Charlie Richmond turned a blind eye, but Laszlo had seen enough, and hauled him off before someone else did.


Andy Driver deserves the accolade, not just for his goal, though he kept his head in the scoring of it, but for the direct running that frightened the life out of Celtic. The winger's value will have increased on the back of this.


Hearts are now unbeaten in six matches, although they came within 10 minutes of claiming a 100% record during that period.


Laryea Kingston was fortunate not to be sent off for his challenge on Aiden McGeady, just minutes after he had been booked for persistent fouling. He was roundly booed by the Celtic support when he made way for substitute David Obua.

Taken from the Scotsman

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