London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2008-09--> All for 20090131
<-Page <-Team Sat 31 Jan 2009 Hamilton Academical 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Eddie Smith
[S Mensing 11] ;[S Mensing pen 51]
23 of 039 ----- L SPL A

Hearts feel immediate impact of Berra sale

ON THE evidence of such a confidence sapping defeat, today's £2.3million sale to Wolves of their most consistent and influential player will be as costly for Hearts on the field as it is advantageous for their bank balance.
Thanks to the leadership and organisational skills of Christophe Berra, the Tynecastle club's most admirable quality of late in the SPL has been how difficult they are to beat. Against Hamilton, that trait seemed to vanish on the M6 to Wolverhamptonalong with their international centre-half.

This was the first time since the beginning of November when they were beaten at home by Celtic that Hearts have lost in the league by more than one goal. Given that Hamilton are hardly renowned for their free-scoring exploits, the defeat suggested that unless coach Csaba Laszlo is given the green light to sign an experienced replacement for Berra, Hearts will struggle in the second half of the season to grind out those narrow victories which have been the foundation of Lazlo's management.

Apart from his individual gifts of pace, strength and courage – no less a judge of centre-backs than Billy McNeill was instrumental in commending the young Scot to Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager – Berra was Hearts' leader on the pitch who could blend with whoever Laszlo asked him to partner.

"Christophe was an important player for us last season and this season, but the SPL is about money these days," said Robbie Neilson, who inherited the captain's arm band. "When someone comes in with the right offer, a player moves on and you have to deal with it.

"What makes it difficult for us is that Christophe is one of those guys who never got injured and played every week. There were injuries and suspensions, but he was always there marshalling the defence. When you lose someone who was an ever- present, it's going to take time."

In Berra's absence, the combination of two converted midfielders, Marius Zaliukas and Eggert Jonsson, in central defence was unconvincing. Whether Laszlo is allowed to recruit a bargain replacement for Berra or Christos Karipidis retreats into the back four rather than fill the holding midfield role he has played with such distinction this season was the subject of talks with majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov, who made a rare appearance at New Douglas Park on Saturday.

In fairness to Jonsson and Zaliukas, the fact that Hearts didn't accept a bid for Berra from Wolves until Saturday morning meant that the new pairing spent little time together on the training ground preparing for the trip to Hamilton. Less comfortable on the left side of defence than the right, Jonsson was caught in possession as early as the first minute. Zaliukas, meanwhile, made far too many attacking runs which would have been better left to Michael Stewart. When the Lithuanian dashed forward in a bid to create space, he did not always get back to plug the hole left behind.

Without Berra's commanding presence at the heart of their defence, Hearts were caught out by Brian Easton's inswinging cross which Simon Mensing nodded away from Jamie MacDonald with a glancing header. A useful shot-stopper, MacDonald is not as commanding a figure in the six-yard box as Janos Balogh, who is expected to return to the first team next week if agreement on his permanent transfer from Debrecen is reached.

Once Hamilton were in front, they made life awkward for Hearts by flooding the midfield and shutting down space. "They did to us what we do when we go to places like Parkhead, so we can have no complaints," observed Neilson. Billy Reid, the Hamilton manager, knows the Edinburgh club rely on Bruno Aguiar to make them tick. So he instructed Alex Neil to shadow the Portuguese midfielder. Aguiar did not relish the man marking and was effectively nullified by Neil's close attention.

True, there were a couple of occasions in the first half when Stewart made late runs into the box and twice was a little unlucky not to equalise, hitting the outside of a post with one effort before being denied by Tomas Cerny's save for the other.

When Hamilton's Mensing scored a second from what looked a fairly soft penalty award at the start of the second half – Neilson reckoned James McCarthy fell into him – the game was effectively over. Needing to chase the game, it took Laszlo too long to come up with Plan B. It wasn't until the closing minutes when Neilson was substituted that he switched to 3-4-3 in an effort to change direction. By then, the die was cast.

Having lost their 19 previous matches against Hearts over three decades, Hamilton were understandably elated to beat the Tynecastle outfit for the first time since season 1979-80. On a run of form which has transformed their fortunes – this was their fifth win in six games and their fourth successive home victory – Hamilton came out of the traps at a far brisker lick than their opponents and deserved to win.

Compact, industrious and well organised, with a touch of class supplied by McCarthy and James McArthur, Reid insists Hamilton are looking up not down and are more interested in challenging for a place in the top six than fretting over relegation back to Division One.


Alex Neil (Hamilton Accies)

Although Simon Mensing's two-goal contribution from midfield was crucial, Neil's dogged hounding of Bruno Aguiar and his replacement, Laryea Kingston, was the decisive factor in Hamilton's gameplan to thwart Hearts.

Taken from the Scotsman

<-Page <-Team Sat 31 Jan 2009 Hamilton Academical 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © |