Kilmarnock 0 Hearts 1: Hearts to push for seventh heaven spot and a season's respite
Sunday 21 April 2013
HEARTS have become accustomed to making the most of bad situations.
Such occasions have often followed grave financial news, but the latest is accounted for by their place in the Scottish Premier League, the Edinburgh side having been left to see out the season in the bottom six.
It is a position which will seem unbecoming for a club which has contested Europa League ties and domestic cup finals in the past two seasons – albeit unsuccessfully – although they were still able to put their best foot forward yesterday to secure a win over Kilmarnock in the first match after the split.
They struck early, with John Sutton putting Hearts ahead after just five minutes, but the more lasting impression was left by those youngsters who have been asked to mature into first-team regulars this season. The most prominent were Jason Holt and Jamie Walker, who both made a nuisance of themselves in the forward areas and might have supplemented their side's lead, while teenage substitute Dale Carrick played just long enough to become a pest to the home side.
The win has allowed Hearts to move level on points with Hibernian – at least the bottom six will accommodate an Edinburgh derby before the season is out – but the Tynecastle side will also note that seventh place is not out of reach either, with Kilmarnock just two points ahead. "If we can catch them then that would be great," said Hearts manager Gary Locke, who confirmed that midfielder Darren Barr will be allowed to leave at the end of the season due to financial reasons.
His departure will likely place a further burden on the club's younger talents. A spot in the bottom six will at least allow for them to be incubated, then, since the club's aspirations cannot extend beyond seventh place, the league split creating a barrier to the top half of the table. It is a wall which Kilmarnock will likely spend the remainder of the season butting their heads against in frustration.
Mohamadou Sissoko, a defender formerly signed with Udinese but whose performance yesterday suggested he had perhaps only holidayed there, was caught out for Hearts' goal. Michael Ngoo switched the ball simply from his right to his left foot inside the penalty area to work space in front of Sissoko, before sliding a low pass across goal for Sutton to turn the ball into the net. "Everybody starts at 3pm, Sissoko starts at 10 past – he deserves criticism," said Shiels.
The Kilmarnock defender's afternoon might have got worse after he conceded a penalty after 61 minutes for a nudge on Walker, only for Cammy Bell to parry Ryan Stevenson's spot-kick. "He had the balls to go up and take it, which is pleasing," said Locke.
Kilmarnock's passing in the first half created problems for themselves mostly – a lazy clearance from Sissoko invited Holt to clip a dangerous cross into the box in the first half – and the home side continued to be accommodating until the penalty award.
By then Shiels had already introduced substitutes Borja Perez and Chris Johnston. The latter might have made the greater impact during his cameo when he guided a cross to Kris Boyd inside the six yard box after 82 minutes, only for the striker's downward header to rear up off the turf and over the crossbar. He would react by kicking a post, then a volley against the arm of Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.
"We just didn't finish and unfortunately you get days like that," added Shiels. "In life, in general, you have to take the defeats on the chin and realise it wasn't going to be your day."
Taken from the Herald