Will The Ghost Of Airdrie Haunt Hearts Again?
Hearts face the proverbial 'banana skin' cup tie tonight when they take on Airdrie United in the CIS trophy (the League Cup to traditionalists!) at Tynecastle.
When the draw was recently made for tonight's match, we wrote an article about the many less-than-happy memories that matches against Airdrie (the 'old' Airdrie that is - 'The Diamonds') tend to conjure up in the minds of Hearts supporters. If ever there was a team to be firmly classed in the 'bogey' category back in the early-to-mid '90s for Hearts, it was most certainly Airdrie, who knocked us out of the Scottish Cup no fewer than three times during that period. Hearts almost always struggled to get any sort of result out of this fixture, and even on those occasions where they did manage to win, it tended to be a bitterly tough, ground out affair - untidy 1-0s rather than comfortable 3-0s!
Of course, it's a vastly different Airdrie that Hearts will be taking on at Tynecastle tonight to the one whose ghost sends a shiver down the spine, but the spectre of Alex MacDonald's old side would appear to be living on, as United's manager is none other than former Hearts player Kenny Black, who was a stalwart of those Airdrie sides of the '90s. Black was as hard as they came as a player - a solid 'pocket battleship'-like build with the aggression to match, so there's every chance that the side who runs out against Hearts tonight will have many similar qualities to those that their manager used to play in for MacDonald. If this turns out to be the case, then Hearts are in for a battle.......
'Shock' results tend to be more rife in this tournament than in the Scottish Cup, possibly because many of the fixtures involving clubs from different leagues take place in the early stages of the season, when players are still finding their feet, so to speak. Tonight is one such fixture, and although Hearts have started the season reasonably well, their lack of cutting edge up front could well see them struggling tonight, particularly if they can't grab an early goal to settle them down. Airdrie will know this and their tactic is likely to be stifling the game for as long as possible to force the crowd to get on the home side's backs, something which sadly doesn't take very long at Tynecastle these days!
Hibs were taken to extra-time by Morton at Easter Road last night and eventually ended up losing 4-3, so the warning signs are there for Hearts if they need them. It could be a LONG night..........!