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|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Jim Jefferies 2nd||<-auth||Barry Anderson||auth->||Brian Winter|
|[K Lafferty 4]|
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Jambos lack the cutting edge
Published Date: 03 February 2011
By BARRY ANDERSON
A VAST improvement on the capitulation at Celtic Park seven days previously, and perhaps even cause for relative satisfaction amongst the Hearts management.
Travelling along the M8 last night, there was still a gnawing frustration within the Tynecastle squad that, but for one early lapse in concentration, they were worth a draw at Ibrox.
Kyle Lafferty's fourth-minute conversion punished hesitancy with in the visitors' defence, but thereafter Hearts more than held their own and actually dominated possession for long periods in the second half. Ultimately they left with nothing, largely due to an absence of guile in attack. With a bit more gumption they might have scored after the interval and further unsettled a Rangers team which lacked cohesion and conceded possession with unusual regularity.
After two defeats in Glasgow in the last week, Hearts now sit five points behind second-placed Rangers and ten adrift of league leaders Celtic. Aspirations of usurping Walter Smith's side remain alive in Edinburgh and to that effect last night will be viewed as an opportunity missed. On this evidence, and in respect of their 1-0 victory over Rangers 12 days ago, Hearts must be considered equal in strength to the Ibrox club.
"We were better than we were last Wednesday, that's for sure," said Jim Jefferies, the Tynecastle manager, referring to the 4-0 defeat at Parkhead. "We got off to the worst possible start when we allowed the boy (Lafferty) to get into the box and drift. It's obviously a great finish from his point of view but it's a bad start for us.
"David Obua pulled up in the warm-up with his groin. He was on the team sheet and we had already lost Lee Wallace, who has a bit of an ankle problem. I thought we recovered great and in possession we were every bit as good as Rangers. We pressed them well and they were guilty of giving the ball away an awful lot in the first half. I don't think Marian Kello has had a save to make in the game.
"When we got going and got into the game then down the flanks Ruben Palazuelos and Craig Thomson were doing great. There were some good balls coming into the box but that's where the problem was. We were a bit lightweight with certain players out. Kyle and Obua called off and Calum Elliot is out so it was a wee bit makeshift. They gave us everything but we know where the problems lay.
"We didn't capitulate like we did last Wednesday.
We could have lost more goals against Celtic but last night we looked very solid. It was just that wee bit lack of threat in the final third in the second half. We were guilty of maybe just not being good enough. We couldn't complain about their eff orts and you could see some key players were missing. That maybe made the difference between us getting a result and not getting one."
Hearts began with an unconventional 5-3-2 formation in the hope of stifling Rangers' attacks, however the hosts were kept at bay for all of four minutes. Lafferty lashed the ball beyond Marian Kello as those in maroon hesitated from Steven Whittaker's hoisted cross.
The controversial El Hadji Diouf started as substitute alongside fellow loanees David Healy and Kyle Bartley but was introduced to the fray for Lee McCulloch after only 20 minutes, earning a warm reception on his Rangers debut. Within eight minutes Marius Zaliukas was cautioned for impeding the Senegalese, with Ian Black and later Ryan Stevenson also booked for fouling the same player. Hearts' first chance arrived on 27 minutes as Zaliukas' header from Craig Thomson's free-kick saw Allan McGregor push the ball over the Rangers crossbar. Moments later another Thomson delivery caused consternation among the home defenders as the ball sped across goal. Unfortunately for Hearts no-one was in position to convert.
Thomson's advances down the right offered greatest hope for the visitors throughout the first half, in which their players grew stronger with time. They were always susceptible to a counter-attack with the pace of Diouf and Vladimir Weiss threatening on several occasions, and after the interval Madjid Bougherra executed a fine one-two with Steven Davis and forced Kello into an expert parry at the near post.
Hearts' ball retention in the second half was much improved and saw them control the tempo of the game. Then, in the 67th minute, an erratic pass from Zaliukas to Bouzid ceded possession to Diouf on the edge of Kello's penalty area. The Senegalese was crowded out while striving to create space for a shot but the error served a reminder that Rangers would pounce on any misplaced ball in the hope of killing the game.
In the dying seconds Davis prodded the ball into the Hearts net for what looked like a second goal after Kello had saved brilliantly from Diouf at close range. However, the Northern Irish midfielder was adjudged offside and a game of few clear chances petered out. Afterwards, Smith openly criticised Black for the first-half challenge on Diouf which earned him a caution. The Hearts midfielder was replaced by Stevenson at half-time after incurring the wrath of the Ibrox crowd, who hadn't forgotten his tackle on Nikica Jelavic at Tynecastle last October.
"The tackle on Diouf was the same as the one which put Jelavic out for three months," said the Rangers manager.
"Overall I was pleased with the way Diouf played considering serial killers get better publicity than he has over the last few days. It was never going to be easy for him after all that. I'm not surprised it was just a yellow card (for Black). It's not an unusual one. He got a yellow card for a similar challenge on Jelavic so that seems to be what happens. I've got no problem with that.
"Diouf did come in for some close attention but he handled that well overall. That was always going to be the case and he'll have to continue to handle that aspect of the game." Jefferies was rightly irked that six of his players incurred yellow cards in total, compared with none from Rangers. Diouf was bizarrely allowed to dive in the first half when challenged by Zaliukas just outside the visitors' penalty area. The Senegalese then tripped the Lithuanian seconds later but referee Brian Winter did not take his name for either offence.
Jefferies explained that he felt Black in particular was targeted as a result of his tackle on Jelavic, which then became a factor in his half-time substitution. "I think he was targeted a lot by the crowd. I thought he was right to be booked but if there was an accidental tackle he might then have been off the pitch. But he had a little bit of a knock as well so it was a bit of both that made us take him off. Our disciplinary record this year has been exceptional in comparison to previous years.
"At this stage last season I think we'd had something like nine players sent off. So far we've only had one, in the second game of the season for a double yellow. So we're improving on that score. I found it a little bit strange that for every tackle we made we got booked. It didn't happen the other way. I've no complaints with the bookings.
"I thought the referee got every one of them right. It just seemed to be us who were getting them and not anybody else."
Taken from the Scotsman
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