With ex-Hearts captain Steven Pressley installed as their new manager, Falkirk were bound to be awkward opponents in Jim Jefferies first home match since returning as manager. Mind you, Hearts got off to a flier in this match with a goal in the 5th minute – courtesy of what was either a mis-hit cross or a cheeky shot from Lee Wallace. Either way, keeper Olejnik was deceived, and Hearts were a goal up.
Hearts had the ball in the net again midway through the half, when some nice passing allowed Novikovas to burst into the box from the left. As he attempted to control the bouncing ball, it just crept over the byeline before he crossed perfectly for Obua to head home. Goal disallowed. Obua then brought out a good save from Olejnik during a good spell of Hearts pressure.
Unfortunately the 3 minutes of injury-time at the end of the first half proved costly for Hearts, when a shot from Twaddle was deflected by Kucharski past Kello for the equaliser.
Falkirk started the 2nd half brightly with 3 good attacks, before Hearts went ahead. A cross from the Novikovas on the left had Olejnik struggling to catch or clear, under pressure from Obua. Thankfully, Suso Santana was alert to the loose ball and drilled a left-foot shot into the net. Then Ian Black – who had by far his most effective game for Hearts since arriving last summer – scored a 3rd, with a “postage stamp screamer” from 22 yards.
2 good chances were then wasted by Gary Glen before a fine Falkirk passing move was finished cleverly by Moutinho to make it 3-2. For the final 10 minutes, that old familiar feeling gripped us once more – having to watch Hearts desperately cling on to a one-goal lead. But Kello and Zaliukas remained cool under pressure, and we all cheered the final whistle – since it signalled a first win for JJ, plus more shots at goal than we had seen in the previous 6 matches.
The stand-out player for me was Ian Black – I`ve been far from impressed by him in any previous game, but against Falkirk he seemed to play with a confidence and composure that have been lacking. His goal was a cracker, although he still managed to pick up the obligatory booking for a having a kick at an opponent before getting injured himself. Was this transformation down to JJ`s coaching ? Or was the absence of a certain Mr Stewart a contributory factor ?
The limitations of David Obua were still evident in this match, but he clearly worried the Falkirk defence ? and it looked as if JJ’s tactics included getting other players to anticipate loose balls resulting from his presence – once of which gave Suso a goal.
Overall, the team seemed to adopt a more attacking formation – which the fans will be pleased to see. As JJ learns more about his players – and hopefully gets some of the injured guys back in training – we will surely develop tactics that allow Hearts to become more of an attacking force in the future than they have been under Csaba Laszlo.
Kello ??…7.?.. Confident handling. This guy is a deceptively good keeper !!
Jonsson ?…7 ?.. Showed his strength in central and right defence
Wallace ?…6 ?.. Despite the goal, not his best game.
Kucharski ?5 ?.. One of his better games actually
Zaliukas ?.. 8 ?.. Getting better with every game
Suso ??? 6 ?.. Didn`t make much impact, apart from alertness at his goal
Black ??.. 8 ?.. Is this the same guy who has been rubbish all season ? Brilliant !!
Stevenson ..6.?.. Decent contribution considering he`s come from the 1st Division
Novikovas ..6 ?.. Some good runs and crosses.
Obua ??. 6 ?. Actually not bad in the “Nade role” – well, better than Nade !!
Glen ??. .5 ?.. Needs to get involved more
Elliott ?? 2 ?. Good to see him back, but didn`t get involved much.
Smith ??.1 ?. Not enough time
Mulroney ..1 ?. Not enough time