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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Paul Forsyth auth-> William Collum
9 of 021 ----- L SPL H

Nade charge puts Laszlo on red alert

Paul Forsyth at Tynecastle
PLEASING though it is to be reminded that there is life beyond the Old Firm, too much of it can be counter-productive.
In a frantic struggle of a match at Tynecastle yesterday, when neither side were superior enough to play with any freedom, their only achievement was to fall further behind the big two. While Dundee United might be excused their reluctance to open out away from home, Hearts' continued deployment of just one striker suggests that they are content merely to be best of the rest.

In fairness, Csaba Laszlo is short of options up front, and Christian Nade's first-half assault on Paul Dixon didn't help. The big French striker had no reason to take out his opponent in so harmless a position, right in front of the managers' dugouts, but take him out he did with not the least intention to play the ball. The referee did everything he could to indicate his displeasure with the challenge, immediately flourishing a yellow card, but the impression was that even Laszlo thought it should have been red.

The Hungarian quickly substituted the player, as he had done Laryea Kingston a week earlier against Celtic. Nade wasn't happy, refusing the manager's hand on his way to the bench, and Laszlo later made great play of the need to crack down on indiscipline, but in the end, he had taken off his first-choice striker before someone else did. "The referee might have given him a red card," he said. "I must protect my team, protect my player."

Poor Dixon could have done with some protecting. Chopped down at the thigh, he was left writhing about on the trackside, while his manager gave the assailant a piece of his mind. "The only thing I was concerned about was that Paul Dixon was all right," said Craig Levein. "But I am happy now. He (Nade] got a yellow card, and he came to see me and apologised. Good on the lad. I apologised as well. I had been shouting at him, and I shouldn't have done that."

The upshot of all this was that David Obua replaced Nade, and made precious little of the opportunity. He squandered several of the few chances there were in a game more notable for its intensity. By flooding their respective midfields, the SPL's two form sides cancelled each other out, and now find themselves 12 points behind second-placed Rangers. Levein, whose team have played a match more than Hearts, didn't feel that the onus was on them to show more ambition.

"The last thing I was going to do was play into their hands," he said. "They set up in a certain way, and they have fantastic players on the counter-attack, but I wasn't going to make it easy for them. We kept it tight, they kept it tight, then we kept it tight and they kept it tight, the game ended and everyone went home. It was an unusual match for me. I'm not coming down here to make the running against a good Hearts side. But I feel as comfortable as I ever have as a manager here. I didn't think we looked in any danger."

For Hearts, it was the next best thing to an Old Firm visit, a vibrant crowd giving an edge to the atmosphere, the football tight and heated as a result. One or two home fans were escorted from the ground when emotions ran high, and the football was no more composed. Five midfielders with varying degrees of ambition has worked for Laszlo in recent weeks, but he found a mirror image in yesterday's opponents, with striker Jon Daly doing for United what Nade does for Hearts.

There are some strapping lads at the front and back of these teams. Lee Wilkie and Garry Kenneth make for a mighty partnership in United's defence, as solid in the air as they are about the shoulders, and their striker is no weakling either. Daly, who didn't so much as blink when a ball was battered into his face from close range, set up one of his team's few first-half chances with a head flick that picked out Craig Conway. The winger dashed on to it from his position wide on the left, drifted across the face of the defence and released a shot that was too high.

There was little to choose between the sides, save for Willo Flood's mercifully subtle touches in the centre of the park. Kingston's run and shot had briefly threatened, as did his cross that eluded Obua and Ruben Palazuelos, but it wasn't until just before half-time that either goal was seriously troubled. Obua was the man responsible, executing a smart exchange with Andy Driver, only to find the goalkeeper quickly out at his feet. Driver, too, had a chance, spinning in the box and flashing a shot across goal, but a slight deflection carried it wide for a corner.

After the interval, Hearts' Bruno Aguiar occupied a more advanced position, from where he was better placed to support Obua, but the Portuguese midfielder was entitled to be disappointed with the Ugandan's clumsy touch after he had set him up with a cute pass. Twice before that, Hearts could have broken the deadlock, first when Driver burst down the left and had his low centre intercepted by the goalkeeper, then when Aguiar's corner picked out Christophe Berra in a crowded penalty area. When his header came off an opponent, Hearts' captain thrashed the loose ball into the sidenet. Driver even threatened to repeat the solo goal he scored against Falkirk earlier in the season, but after skipping past several players, Palazuelos the last of them, his weak right-foot shot was straight at the goalkeeper.

United, too, had begun to stretch the game, but Conway's final ball too often let him down. By the time his shot had deflected off Marius Zaliukas, it had escalated into a pulsating encounter, still lacking composure in the final third. Pressure rarely manifested itself in clearcut chances, which made Daly's miss, with 17 minutes left, all the more frustrating. Substitute Danny Swanson had teed him up with the perfect corner, but the striker's powerful downward header was yards off target.


Willo Flood, slight of build but big of heart, provided method amid the madness yesterday. His first touch, and his ability to find time where there was none, certainly caught the eye.


The first league draw between these sides in more than 15 years means that Hearts remain unbeaten in seven matches, the last two of them draws.


Christian Nade's reckless challenge on Paul Dixon earned him a yellow card, and an immediate substitution by his manager, Csaba Laszlo. Maybe the Hearts manager fancies himself as a referee.

Taken from the Scotsman

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