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Paulo Sergio <-auth auth-> Steve O'Reilly
6 of 024 -----L SPL A

St Mirren 0 - 0 Hearts: Spirit remains willing as gritty Hearts hang on for a point

Published on Monday 7 November 2011 03:24

THEY were a little fortunate to leave Paisley with a point on Saturday night, but it would be harsh to criticise Heart of Midlothian’s players at a time like this.

Given all that they have been through these last couple of weeks, it is a wonder they bothered to turn up at all, never mind draw a match that was altogether better than the scoreline suggests.

While St Mirren were the more adventurous of the two sides, creating frequent and better chances, Hearts made a decent spectacle of it, which hasn’t always been the case this season. By hanging in there when the going got tough – albeit with plenty of help from their goalkeeper Marian Kello, Paulo Sergio’s team did more than many of us would do for an employer who had withheld wages without explanation.

Whether it was professional pride, or a desire to win themselves a move elsewhere, the Hearts team appeared to be committed enough, but Sergio will know better than to take their morale for granted. By belatedly paying the wages of their senior players at the end of last week, the club can hardly claim to have drawn a line under the issue. Who could blame the players were they to bear a grudge against their eccentric owner, Vladimir Romanov? And how likely are they to receive their next pay packet, due on 16 November?

With Romanov banning his staff from talking to the media, the questions remain unanswered, but others were happy to fill the void with a vote of sympathy. Marc McAusland, the St Mirren defender, said that he felt sorry for his fellow professionals. “It’s obviously been really difficult for them. I’ve never had the experience of not getting my wages on time, but you definitely feel for players like that with families, mortgages and stuff. You don’t know how they’ll be able to cope. I’m glad to see they got some money paid. Hopefully they’ll be able to sort it out.”

While they rode their luck in the first half, Hearts upped their game in the second, and despite the absence of the suspended Ian Black and Danny Grainger, might even have snatched all three points. Eggert Jonsson headed straight at the goalkeeper after a cross by Mehdi Taouil. And when Jim Goodwin surrendered possession to David Obua, David Templeton tested Craig Samson with a swift turn and shot. But the biggest let-off for St Mirren came when Obua’s dipping volley beat the goalkeeper, only to come back off the post and roll across the face of goal.

A win would have been more than they merited, but the performance was enough to impress the St Mirren manager, Danny Lennon. “I’ve got to give Hearts a great deal of credit for what they brought to the game,” he said. “It’s been a very, very difficult and emotional week for them and I just hope everything behind the scenes is sorted out because they are a very good side. I feel for the individuals having to go out there. Anybody, regardless of what job you do, whether you are a top football player or a cleaner, deserves their wages at the end of the week. Full stop.”

These were generous remarks by a manager who knows that his team shaded it. In the first half particularly, their sweeping moves, usually down the left, deserved reward. When Gary Teale outpaced Andy Webster and squared to David Van Zanten, the full-back’s shot was fumbled away by Kello. Then Paul McGowan’s poked effort was palmed away after a neat one-two with Jereon Tesselaar. Graham Carey also tested the Hearts goalkeeper from long range.

Carey has quite a left foot on him, but it was one of his less accurate efforts that produced St Mirren’s nearest thing to a goal. His powerful shot appeared to be heading for the corner flag when Steven Thompson, in a zany attempt to fling himself at it, somehow pranged the ball against the woodwork. Then, when Nigel Hasselbaink’s flashing shot seemed destined for the net, Kello spiralled upwards to produce the save of the match with an instinctive touch over the top.

While a little disappointed by their failure to score, Lennon was encouraged by the continued progress of his side, in defence as well as attack. This was their second consecutive clean sheet, their sixth in 13 league games this season. It is a strength that has gone largely unnoticed amid all the talk about their passing principles.

McAusland attributes it partly to their goalkeeper, but also to his developing partnership in the middle with Lee Mair, a friend of his off the pitch. “All the boys are quite pally at this club,” he said. “It definitely helps.” For fifth-placed Hearts, just two points ahead of St Mirren, that team spirit is not so easily achieved.

Taken from the Scotsman

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