Hearts scrape dull 0-0 draw
24th October 2009
Where do we start to describe this one ? I`ve seen some awful games in my time, but this one must rank among the worst as a general spectacle … and in particular for the ineptitude shown by Hearts.
Hearts went into this game knowing that a win would put a decent gap between them and bottom team Falkirk. So the first surprise was learning that our main striker was going to be serial under-achiever Christian Nade, who had publicly stated in a news conference on Friday that he would "definitely score" in today`s match. Sadly, the Frenchman failed to live up to his promise - in fact, he looked as if his mind was elsewhere until he was replaced by David Witteween after 70 minutes. The blond Austrian produced more skill and threat in those final 20 minutes today than Nade has shown in most of his Hearts career. It baffles me why Csaba Laszlo still seems to see Nade as our number 1 striker.
The home side started very tamely, with some players showing a strange lack of urgency and belief. We created only 2 good chances in the first half. The first resulted from some fine passing between Nade, Suso and Driver, which allowed Andrew to fire in a shot from inside the box - but it was wide of the target. As half-time loomed, Suso ran on to a neat flick just outside the box, but was pulled down by Barr - who was booked for the offence. Sadly, the free-kick was wasted when Goncalves curled it too high over the bar. Credit is due to Eddie May for admitting after the game that his captain was fortunate not to be sent off for the foul, as it could be considered a goalscoring opportunity denied.
Mind you, Falkirk had threatened in the first half too. Balogh was alert enough to come out and smother at the feet of Finnbogasson after Bouzid had been caught napping, and then made a fine diving save from a dangerous long-range shot by McDonald.
Could the second half be any more frustrating ? Well .. yes, actually. The mis-placed passes continued at an amazing rate, and the fans seemed relieved on one hand that at least Falkirk didn`t look as if they could capitalise on Hearts ineptitude - while displaying their anger at some of the poor ball control and decision-making from the home side.
Falkirk keeper Olejnik made a fine save to prevent an own goal off McLean`s head, and in injury time he denied Witteween as he managed a close shot on the turn. In between, Suso shot narrowly wide from a good position, while Stewart blazed one over the bar. At the other end, a desperate block by Goncalves to stop a dangerous low cross flew inches past Balogh`s right-hand post.
If Hearts were "together" last season, there was precious little evidence of it today. The normally impressive Driver and Obua were shadows of their usual selves, while the forceful drive that Wallace and Palazuelos often provide was missing from their play today. Indeed, Obua struggled to stay involved in the game at times, and I was amazed that he wasn't substituted. Only Goncalves, Suso and Thomson looked like proper footballers in this match. Captain Michael Stewart was taken off after 75 minutes to the ironic cheers of the home fans, replaced by Ian Black. I`ve seen Stewart have worse games, but Csaba`s frustration with him must have been strong enough to take the unusual step of removing his captain. The stats say that Hearts had 5 shots on target - I can only think 2. Csaba said we had enough chances to win 5-0, but only 2 or 3 of them were what I`d call "proper" chances.
The next match is the League Cup tie at Parkhead on Wednesday - a similar performance to today's against Celtic would surely bring an embarassing exit. More importantly, the respect and affection which most fans have for manager Csaba Laszlo will not last much longer if we see many more performances like this against lowly SPL teams.