London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Paulo Sergio <-auth Moira Gordon auth-> Alan Muir
Black Ian [D Shiels pen 55]
17 of 020 -----L SPL H

Red mist descends at Hearts

By Moira Gordon at Tynecastle
Published on Monday 31 October 2011 00:25

HEARTS lost it. The match, their tempers and their composure. There’s a showdown with the SFA disciplinary committee already in the diary for this week but Paulo Sergio could be facing a quick return to the Hampden meeting rooms after his histrionics on the touchline on Saturday.

It was a pity because while his players can perhaps rue a lack of coolness in front of goal, and Ian Black will need to take a long look at himself after another rash challenge left his team-mates outnumbered for most of the match, the biggest meltdown came on the sidelines.

Irate exchanges with counterparts in the Kilmarnock technical area, wild gesticulation and a virtually non-stop rant at officials from the minute Black was sent packing in the 15th minute until he was eventually dispatched to the enclosure behind the dug-out by the fed up referee Alan Muir, the last straw, bizarrely, being the fact he had lashed out at the Perspex shelter according to Hearts. It was a passionate display but as his opposite number, Kenny Shiels, had, wisely, been preaching to his players in the build-up that kind of energy needs to be channelled productively. Hearts failed to do that and Kilmarnock reaped the reward.

The red card offence was vociferously disputed by Sergio but there were no legitimate grounds for his objections. It was a reckless challenge from the Hearts midfielder. But even with their numerical disadvantage Hearts enjoyed greater possession and spent most of the match in the Kilmarnock half. But while the Tynecastle side imposed themselves in midfield – even after Black had gone off – and stifled their guests’ invention, playing once again without a recognised, out and out striker, they had no-one who could finish. With John Sutton clearly not a preferred option, it’s something the Hearts manager will have to address in the next transfer window.

In the opening period, Danny Grainger sent his free-kick just wide, Ryan Stevenson failed to find the target with a headed opportunity while Black did likewise with a long-range strike. Add to that a plethora of Andy Webster misdirected headers from set pieces and it was clear that Hearts were carving out openings. Rudi Skacel was then just beaten to a whipped in David Templeton cross by the vigilant Killie defence and the Czech midfielder then tried an audacious overhead kick which again came to nothing before Stevenson’s effort zipped across the face of goal. Hearts were piling on the pressure, and Killie couldn’t find a way to get into the game.

In the end they didn’t really need to. They just had to hold firm at the back, with Manual Pascali, Sissoko and goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola all playing a key role in ensuring that, and wait for Hearts to shoot themselves in the foot.

Stevenson had the best opportunity of the first half, an inswinging corner from Grainger finding him at the back post but Jaakkola pulled off a stunning reaction save. Killie’s only effort of any note was from David Silva when the ball broke on the edge of the box but his shot was deflected and while the guests managed to force a succession of corners they couldn’t turn them into anything tangible.

Seemingly only a matter of time before the home team made the breakthrough, they were not shy to make their presence felt. It was the kind of aggressive performance Shiels said he had prepared his players for. But while aggression can obviously be a positive, the frustration which was building in the Hearts ranks saw it tip into the realms of negativity. The home players, possibly influenced by the remonstrations on the touchline, seemed increasingly upset by their own failure to carve out a lead and aggrieved with the match officials. Dangerously, they were allowing it to consume them. They had been denied a penalty in the first half when a mis-hit Jamie Hamill shot was halted in the box by Alex Pursehouse, the ball dribbling down the defender’s arm after an attempted headed clearance, but the officials obviously deemed it unintentional.

Jaakkola was again the Kilmarnock player called into action as the second half heated up. Stevenson set up Skacel for a shot that was well saved by the Finn and the ball was cleared from Stevenson as he tried to finish the rebound.

But then came the moment Kilmarnock had been hanging on and hoping for. A through ball from Gary Harkins found Paul Heffernan as he charged forward and as he broke into the box ahead of Marius Zaliukas, the Hearts captain gave him a shove. The referee initially failed to signal an infringement but his assistant was adamant that a spot kick should be awarded. While Hearts fumed about the decision, Kilmarnock were upset that the defender was not sent off for denying their striker a clear goalscoring opportunity.

As it was, Dean Shiels’ conversion from the spot was enough of a punishment. One goal up, Kilmarnock failed to create many other efforts to test Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello, while Hearts huffed and puffed and tried and failed to find the breakthrough at the other end.

Then, with about 15 minutes of the match remaining, Sergio was sent packing. He seemed to suggest that it was the officials who should be given their marching orders. It was all rather unseemly and contributed little to the cause. Kilmarnock gave Hearts a lesson in composure and they left with the three points. It’s something for Hearts to ponder given the fact the wage-starved players must surely be fed up of giving their all and getting nothing in return.

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