London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 04 Apr 2009 Hearts 3 Kilmarnock 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> David Somers
[D Invincible 8]
10 of 016 Calum Elliot 23 ;Calum Elliot 29 ;Bruno Aguiar 49 L SPL H

Elliot helps Hearts turn on style

ALTHOUGH it didn't take long for Csaba Laszlo, the shrewd manager of Heart of Midlothian, to work out that in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king, not even the club's most blinkered supporters could make much of a case for their team as a sight for sore eyes in the SPL.
Given a deserved reputation for accumulating points with more emphasis on pragmatism than ebullience, this latest performance came as a pleasant surprise since it tore up the stereotype of a team built to frustrate the opposition and grind out narr ow victories.

Playing for almost an hour with width, sharpness and imagination, Hearts produced by far their most creative performance of the campaign to clinch a berth in the top six and extend their advantage in third place to seven points. Laszlo tweaked a conservative 4-5-1 system to produce a thoroughly adventurous display.

Much of the credit for this change in style was down to the contribution of Calum Elliot. In his first start of the season, the 22-year-old centre forward not only demonstrated a capacity to score goals but also injected a new element of mobility into Hearts' play which allowed Andrew Driver, David Obua and Bruno Aguiar to spend most of the game on the front foot.

As early as the fourth minute, Elliot drifted out to the left and played in a colleague with a deft flick. It was a sign of what was to come. Rather than emulate Christian Nade's muscular approach to leading the line, the young Scot put the emphasis on movement. This enabled Aguiar to get closer to the main striker as well as encouraging Driver and Obua, who was also a key figure in winning aerial duels, to play more like wingers.

None of this would have meant much unless Michael Stewart and Ruben Palazuelos had turned in top notch displays in central midfield. Taking advantage of the acres of space conceded by Kilmarnock – Jim Jefferies, the manager at Rugby Park, reckoned this was the decisive issue – the Scot and the Spaniard dictated the ebb and flow.

While the aerial weakness in central defence evident since the sale of Christophe Berra continues to cost Hearts goals – Kilmarnock went in front when Mehdi Taouil's cross was headed home by Danny Invincibile – the manner in which the home side responded to that early set-back was impressive.

Elliot scored 11 goals in 13 games on loan to Livingston and it was his striker's instincts which got Hearts back on level terms. Elliot had won the free kick himself (he was fouled by David Lilley) and after Marius Zaliukas flicked on Aguiar's delivery, the young Scot was quick to pounce. Jefferies thought the final touch came off Grant Murray, but only the churlish would deny Elliot his first goal for Hearts in over a year.

The forward didn't have long to wait for the second – it took him 29 minutes to match the tally Nade needed 28 games to accumulate – and this one was noteworthy. Lee Wallace, who turned in another swashbuckling effort at left-back, supplied the cross. Elliot nipped in front of his marker to enhance the pace already on the ball with a brilliant slash of the right boot which sped at an angle past Alan Combe.

He might have completed a hat-trick after an enthralling interchange with Driver and there were plenty of other close shaves to convince Laszlo that Elliot is worth persisting with. His bravery in the box helped set up Aguiar for the third goal in the second half and, inevitably, it was the centre forward who forced Ryan O'Leary to concede a penalty. Aguiar's spot-kick hit the inside of a post after most of the home supporters had pleaded for Elliot to be given the chance to complete a hat-trick.

"We are not in a Christmas market," countered Laszlo. "My gift to Calum Elliot was to bring him off a few minutes from the end to hear the applause from the people. The second goal from Elliot, I think, was a fantastic goal. I also must make a compliment for the fans, especially for the relationship with Elliot. It was a positive step."

Having been on the end of jeers as often as cheers during a testing time at Tynecastle, Elliot has needed to show patience to get a shot at redemption.

"Hopefully I can build on the last couple of performances (against Rangers and Kilmarnock] and give the manager something to think about," he said. "The manager is always on my case and tells me to work harder. But he wants me to do well here."

For Kilmarnock, mired in the struggle against relegation, things might have worked out better if O'Leary hadn't scorned a gilt-edged chance after Aguiar missed the penalty. The Ayrshire club made life hard for themselves by gifting the opposition too much room. They will need to be meaner when Falkirk come calling on Saturday.

Taken from the Scotsman

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