Well, let’s just hope that after this match the myth that the gap between the Old Firm and the rest of the clubs in this league is widening can be put to bed.
Anyone who watched Rangers yesterday (and I hope that all of the other SPL managers did just that) should realise that they’re every bit as average now as they were three years ago when they finished third behind Hearts, and I sincerely hope that in the coming weeks, some of the inferiority complexes that have existed within Scottish football for too long can be overcome.
Make no mistake about it, Hearts may have won yesterday’s match to make it five victories in a row, but if they’d had the personnel to really have a go at Rangers for the full 90 minutes (most notably a quality strike partner for Christian Nade), they could easily have won this match by a good few goals.
I don’t think I can ever recall such a fragile-looking Rangers defence, and it probably does say it all when their best player in that area is nearly 39 years of age.
Sadly the way that Hearts tend to line up these days dictates that opposing defences often have a bit of time on the ball, which is a pity as when they were put under pressure yesterday they were making mistakes all over the place.
Still, let’s focus on the positive news that Csaba Laszlo’s team are continuing to return positive results against the odds, with this one likely to have given them most confidence of all.
Looking back at the game itself, it was played at a hell of a pace at times, but when you actually try to think of the football played, there wasn’t really all that much on offer.
What football WAS played I would have to say came in the main from Hearts, who when they were able to get Aguiar, Kingston and to a lesser extent Nade on the ball, looked capable of opening Rangers up fairly easily.
Rangers on the other hand were very disappointing. For some reason they didn’t appear interested in using their midfield, which was their loss as if they had they may just have gotten some success by making more use of the talented Mendes and Ferguson.
As it was they just fired high ball after high ball to Kris Boyd, who was unable to get any change out of Berra and Zaliukas. Indeed Boyd’s only contribution were the incredible number of fouls he committed – I counted 13 but there could well have been more, and a good few of those were effectively forearm smashes into the face of Berra. Quite how he stayed on the park only referee Dougie McDonald will know, but in the end he did Hearts a favour as the striker was frankly hopeless.
Hearts took the lead after 20 minutes. Aguiar’s exquisite free-kick into the penalty area found the head of Berra, whose downward header was blocked but not held by MacGregor. A mini-strumash ensued, with the ball eventually breaking to Zaliukas on his lonesome at the back post, and he gleefully swept the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0.
Just three minutes later Hearts were in dreamland when, after another accurate Aguiar delivery, Larry Kingston stooped to head home the second after MacGregor had again failed to hold a close range header. 2-0.
At this stage Rangers were seriously on the ropes and every one of their defenders looked nervous on the ball, but they were thrown a lifeline before half-time when, following Adam’s free-kick, Boyd’s header was deflected off the bar and straight into the path of the onrushing Karipidis, whose momentum took him and ball into the net.
Half time 2-1
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first i.e. lots of high ball from Weir, Whittaker and Bougherra in search of Boyd, lots of elbows in the face from said donkey, and the occasional piece of football when Hearts could break forward down the wings.
Larry Kingston came closest to extending Hearts’ lead when he surged forward just before the hour mark and tested MacGregor from 20 yards – the ball bounced treacherously in front of the ‘keeper who managed to safely push it round the post.
Lee Wallace then gave Rangers hope when he stupidly lunged at Chris Burke from the back to receive a second yellow card. His first booking had been very harsh given what had been let go elsewhere on the field, but even still he should have had the sense to know what he could and couldn’t subsequently get away with, and Dougie McDonald was never going to let this sort of opportunity go.
As a result it was backs-to-the-wall stuff for the remainder of the match for Hearts, but thankfully instead of trying to pass us off the field to maximise their extra man, Rangers still continued to lump high ball after high ball into the Hearts penalty area, and although there were a couple of mini-scares, the defence generally held firm very well.
In the end it was a very hard fought three points for Hearts, and a result that should give everyone at the club a great lift. However, expectations need to be realistic – we may be on a good run but the glaring frailties in the Hearts team are still very much in evidence, so I do hope that the fans can stay sober and stay off the team’s back if they do happen to lose say at Motherwell next week.
A great few weeks for the club though – let’s see how long they can keep it going….
In all honesty had very little to do. Not quite sure what happened at the Rangers goal but it looks as though he was wrong-footed by a slight deflection. Other than that, handling was pretty decent when required.
Had his obligatory horror pass just before half-time, but I thought Robbie had a really solid game down the right.
Was having a decent enough game before he stupidly lunged at Chris Burke to receive a second booking, which put Hearts on the back-foot thereafter.
At long last appears to be growing into his captain’s role. Arguably his best performance of the season.
Like Berra was in the thick of the action throughout due to Rangers’ tactics, but like his captain had a fine match.
A little out-of-sorts for me – fought hard but often wasn’t hard enough in the tackle. Very unfortunate for the OG though.
The clear weak link in the Hearts team on the day – too lightweight to be in the centre of midfield against physical opponents like Rangers.
As many of us expected, did much better than he has for most of the season against higher profile opposition. Along with Aguiar our most creative player for the hour he was on the park.
This is maybe harsh but I thought he had a disappointing afternoon. Has the ability to make a nonsense of the likes of Broadfoot and Bougherra, but although he had opportunities, he was found wanting on the day.
Probably the best football player on the pitch. Was disappointed to see him subbed but he did put a pile of work in and was probably knackered!
Really needed more support than he was given. Won most of his aerial balls but had no-one to flick the ball onto. Another decent enough shift though.
Worked hard for last half hour.