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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Martin Greig auth-> Calum Murray
19 of 023 ----- L SPL H

Woodwork lessons highlight Hearts’ need for cutting edge

MARTIN GREIG January 05 2009

Hearts 0 Hibernian 0

Lewis Stevenson was named as man of the match by Setanta. Although there were no outstanding candidates, it seemed a curious award. The young Hibernian midfielder often resembled a slice of prey in the Colosseum, with lions prowling menacingly around him. In the first half, he had the temerity to try to play a couple of passes through midfield.

He was duly cemented for his troubles and responded in kind after the interval by clattering Michael Stewart, which earned him a booking from referee Calum Murray, who had an excellent game. Perhaps it was this naive and fleeting belief that he could be the catalyst for an outbreak of football that led to Stevenson's man-of-the-match award. He will learn.

For the purist, this was an eyesore. For those who know precisely what to expect on such occasions, it was a match of relentless intensity, a 100-metre sprint that ended in a photo finish. Hearts should have won, but could have lost. They will do it all again next Sunday at Easter Road in the Homecoming Scottish Cup. There will be little to choose between the sides once again, though if the Tynecastle side ever find themselves a decent striker, they could become a potent force.

Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts manager who treats post-match press conferences like therapy sessions, lamented his side's spurning of "20 million chances". A slight exaggeration perhaps, but they did rattle the woodwork three times. Christian Nade was responsible for two of those efforts, the first a looping header off the bar and the second a low drive off the post after a wonderful over-lap from the excellent Eggert Jonsson.

Not that the striker's failure to trouble the scoresheet once again was purely down to bad luck. Nade is a powerful presence, capable of boring holes in the opposition defence, but he is far from a natural finisher, as his record of one goal in 20 outings testifies. One chance near the end was irrefutable evidence of this. When the ball came to him on the left edge of the area he lumped it miles over the bar in the style of Peter Kay in a John Smith's advert.

"We must be more focused on the target. If you don't have the killer instinct then you don't win games," reflected Laszlo. "In the second half we played well and if we had scored we would have won the game. When the transfer window opens I hope to be active. I am looking for a goal-scorer." The probable return of Andrius Velicka this month should offer Hearts a greater cutting edge.

Mixu Paatalainen, the Hibs manager, fielded an attacking line-up. Steven Fletcher, Derek Riordan and Alan O'Brien offered pace and width, though spent the afternoon haring down blind alleys. Jonatan Johansson, the former Rangers striker, was also stationed on the right flank for his debut but looked as if he was running in treacle for most of the match. Despite the relentless pace of the game, the 33-year-old enjoyed his return to Scottish football after an eight-year absence.

"It was great. There was a really good atmosphere and the game started at a high pace. It was just like before. I would like to have won my first game, but they got a lot of balls in the box and hit the post a couple of times. Our counter-attacks worked quite well when we got the ball to the strikers' feet. We created some really good chances.

"It was quite a fair result. I felt alright but I was cramping towards the end. I've had three weeks of training but I am lacking match fitness. Hopefully that will come soon."

The first two Edinburgh derbies of the season have now ended in a stalemate. The third, in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup next weekend, should be another tasty affair.

"The cup game is totally different," insisted Johansson. "It at least gives us a lift and offers us something to take into the game at Easter Road. We really want to do well in the cup this year. I think it will be another hard game, but at home we have a little bit of an advantage."

Hibs should have the injured Rob Jones back for that meeting, though Steven Thicot was a more than able deputy on Saturday.

The young Frenchman had an impressive game in central defence and is arguably a more able distributor of possession than Jones.

Johansson has been impressed with the standard of player at Easter Road. "There are some really good young players in the squad and there is plenty of competition for places. It's a young team and maybe in some games there has been a lack of concentration and we have let in some easy goals, but today I thought the defence was spot on and, if we can defend like that, we can pick up a lot of points."

The transfer window will be a key time for both sides. Hibs will hope to retain Fletcher, who has been linked with Middlesbrough, while Hearts' Christophe Berra, Laryea Kingston and Andy Driver could all be the subject of bids.

Taken from the Herald

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