I had wondered if the 2-week enforced break due to the weather might have knocked the wind out of Hearts sails, having recorded 4 successive 2-0 wins in the SPL. I needn’t have worried. The now familiar chasing, movement, passing and individual talent were all there to see today, as the team`s spirit and confidence ensured that they came out on top against Aberdeen.
It was almost 5 years to the day since Hearts last scored 5 goals in the SPL – a 5-0 thrashing of Falkirk at Tynecastle under Graham Rix. Bizarrely, all 4 scorers from that game were on the pitch today !! Calum Elliot (who scored 2 that day) came on as a sub today?. Rudi Skacel scored 2 today?.. Paul Hartley was the Dons` captain today? and Michal Pospisil was interviewed during the half-time raffle draw (his son was a mascot).
It was intriguing to watch Rudi Skacel and Paul Hartley mark each other, knowing how close they were at Tynecastle during that amazing season. On several occasions today, you could see that they still have great respect and affection for each other. And it was nice to see Hearts fans give Mr Hartley a decent reception, which our former hero responded to on a couple of occasions despite the drubbing his team were taking. I especially liked the chant – “Play for a big team? you used to play for a big team”
Hearts` work-rate was impressive, with the sort of continual movement off the ball which only comes from players who have confidence in themselves and in the team.
Every player was excellent today, including the 3 substitutes – Ryan Stevenson, Calum Elliot and Arvydas Novikovas. I thought Stephen Elliott was fantastic – he is turning out to be an excellent acquisition, and he could become as influential on JJ`s current squad as Colin Cameron was in the 1990s. While Rudi and Templeton grabbed the plaudits due to their attacking exploits, I`ll make a special mention of Adrian Mrowiec. His energy and dedication to protecting the defence is remarkable – easily matching the fabled (and over-rated) Mr Brellier, but without the nasty streak which the Frenchman couldn`t seem to suppress for 90 minutes. The Pole has a decent eye for starting attacks too.
With the half-time score at 2-0 thanks to early well-crafted goals from Templeton and Skacel, most fans would have gladly taken a 5th successive win by that margin. However Hearts` hunger and confidence continued after the break. With captain Zaliukas lying injured after a strong tackle, Palazuelos and Templeton combined well down the left, with the Spaniard’s accurate cross being headed into the Gorgie end goal by Stephen Elliott. Five minutes later, the Irishman then combined with Mrowiec on the right to deliver a dangerous cross for Templeton to knock down to Skacel, who fired into the net.
The final goal was a cleverly placed right-foot shot from substitute Novikovas from 20 yards into the top corner.
When former Jambo Andrius Velicka made a substitute appearance for the Dons, I couldn’t help thinking back to 2007 when the Lithuanian was probably our best hope for grabbing a goal. Today, the big man wouldn’t even get a place on JJ’s bench – such is the wealth of attacking players with an eye for goal. It really is pleasing to see how things have changed for the better at Hearts since these dark days.
The improvement in the accuracy of Hearts` passing over the last few months has been remarkable, and today`s match had some excellent flowing moves. In short, the slippery trudge along icy pavements and soggy verges to get to the game was well worth the effort !!
The next 2 matches provide a stern test – Motherwell (away) on Tuesday night, and in-form ICT at Tynecastle on Saturday. Yet on current form, Hearts should be looking to win them both. Here`s hoping we can keep this fantastic – and entertaining – winning run going !!