London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Richard Winton auth-> Eddie Smith
26 of 039 Michael Stewart 62 L SPL A

Dundee United 0 - 1 Hearts

RICHARD WINTON March 02 2009

Hearts have spent the first seven months of the season surmounting obstacles but, after establishing a five-point advantage over their closest rivals for third place with this win, the only barrier to success is now themselves.

That they find themselves in such a situation is testament to Csaba Laszlo. The Tynecastle manager gambolled across the Tannadice turf at the culmination of this contest, gibbering excitedly into the ears of his players, acknowledging the supporters and delivering thanks to the Tayside sky. He may remain a man of mirth for some but the work done by the Hungarian is worthy of merit.

Hearts' display on Saturday - dripping with desire if bereft of beauty - offered a perfect exhibition of what the side represent under his direction. Diligent in defence but anaemic in attack, the players were sent out with the instruction not to concede. They executed that request to perfection.

"The manager was very clear about what he thought was needed to get something here," explained Michael Stewart, who scored with Hearts' one effort at goal. "We came into the game two points ahead of United so a draw wouldn't have been a bad result - making sure we were solid and difficult to beat was the priority."

That Hearts' defensive pair started the season in midfield made their resistance more magnificent. Christos Karipidis was rarely bested, be it aerially or on the floor, while Eggert Jonsson made another foreign position look his own. Behind them, Janos Balogh fulfilled his part of Laszlo's command, the goalkeeper making an first-half double save to deny Fran Sandaza and Paul Caddis.

However, Hearts defended as a team, smothering United's attacks as well as ambitions. During the late bombardment of the visitors' box, midfielder David Obua was seconded to mark Lee Wilkie, who spent the final 10 minutes playing as a striker. The gangly Ugandan, who gives the impression of being a prime pacifist, hurled himself at every delivery and won more than his share through fair or foul.

Such is the spirit Laszlo has instilled in a hitherto fractured club. "Csaba's an infectious character and it's been really enjoyable working with him," said Stewart, who seems to have benefited more than most from an intellectual stimuli.

"We have had hurdles put in our way and we've fallen over a couple but every time he's dusted us down and got us back on our feet looking forward to the next challenge."

For United, the next barrier is crucial. Craig Levein's side travel to Falkirk tomorrow in a match that could decide their season. A first victory in seven would right their faltering tilt for third and a Europa League place, but defeat would further sap the confidence with both Aberdeen and Motherwell looming behind.

Despite Levein correctly claiming United had the better chances, his side were poor. They could have salvaged a deserved point when Sandaza earned a dubious penalty after lunging over Jonsson's leg, but the Spaniard sclaffed a horrible kick into the arms of Balogh.

"I think Fran's standing foot slipped," admitted team-mate Darren Dods. "It always looked like a goal was going to decide it and the breaks just didn't go for us. But there are 12 games to go and we're still fourth. I think it will go right to the end because every team has something to play for. You can't look at any game and predict an easy three points for anyone."

That includes Hearts. In the past, they have specialised in sabotage but Laszlo's team seems made of sterner stuff.

"Third is not something we are going to shy away from,"

Stewart said. "But the manager has been consistently talking about making the top six and if we do that we might have a chance."

Taken from the Herald

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