Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Heart of Midlothian v St. Mirren - C.I.S. Cup Semi Final

Tuesday 2nd February 2010.
Scottish Football League, C.I.S. Cup Semi Final
at Fir Park, Motherwell

Heart of Midlothian (0) 0
St. Mirren (0) 1 (Mehmet 51)

Admission £22, £18, concessions £5. Programme £3
Attendance 9170
Hmm, hardly the most surprising or unpredictable outcome to a football match I've ever encountered, it must be said.
I got into Fir Park about ten minutes before kick off and it was already fairly obvious by then that a great deal of the travelling support coming across the M8 from Edinburgh had been held up in the roadworks we had encountered en route, this led to the first twenty minutes of the game being interrupted by "You're in my seat pal/Well get here on 'flipping' time then!" type arguments breaking out all around us and a lot of people's view of the pitch being obscured by late arrivals squeezing in wherever they could.

Unfortunately, up in my altitude busting vantage point, I could see everything that was unfolding out on the pitch ... which in truth wasn't very much of anything actually.

The playing surface began cutting up from the word go ... Fir Park's pitch is notoriously poor, the area in front of the main stand was especially bad and the goal area at the south stand end resembled a threadbare square of cheap green carpet.
But both teams had to play on it, one dealt with the conditions, the other, well ... the other are called Heart of Midlothian.

Ten minutes prior to kick off.
Tonight's pitch is sponsored by Omar's Cheap Carpet Warehouse

There were several similarities between this semi final and the SPL game I had attended a few days before, namely:
Hearts only registered one effort on target in the whole of 90 (+ 3) minutes (again).
The only goal of the game was scored against Hearts on 51 minutes (again) it was a cracking shot from twenty yards out as it happens.
Hearts got what they deserved out of the game ... nothing (again).

Even Billy Mehmet's wonder strike for the only goal of the game, didn't inspire Hearts to up the tempo. I would go so far as to say that apart from Marius Zaliukas and Marian Kello, the rest of the team simply didn't look like they could give a toss about the result. Despite the obvious noise willing them on from the South Stand.

The long snaking column of coaches and mini buses heading out of town after the game escorted by police out riders was an impressive sight.
But unless their team suddenly become an energetic, attacking force any time soon (which I have an inkling they won't be doing), it's going to be a long, long time until that many supporters make the effort to travel any distance to see Hearts playing in midweek again.
And why should they bother if the majority of the team aren't even trying?
After the game I even heard a few seasoned campaigners and die hards saying they were going to be missing a few home games too because the Hearts are so poor to watch this season.

The C.I.S. Cup Final, a step too far for JJ, just yet

The Jim Jefferies post match interview I heard on the way back over the M8 spoke of the improvement since Saturday and a willingness to compete, I'm not sure what game he was at then.
Perhaps he had his view impaired by late arrivals too?
I like Jim Jefferies and realise he has accepted a very difficult task where he's going to be expected to perform miracles to stop the rot at Tynecastle, but I would respect him a whole lot more if he had said "Completely unacceptable, we were rubbish" or similar stronger worded sentiments like those that were in plentiful supply amongst those heading away from Fir Park in an easterly direction.
'JJ' seems to be making the right noises about shipping players out who aren't running through walls for the team he supported as a boy and captained as a player ... and I sincerely hope he gets the chance to see the job through without having his wings clipped by Vlad the Impaler, like so many others have done previously, in such a short space of time.
Good luck to St. Mirren in the final next month against the winners of the second semi final between Glasgow Rangers and St. Johnstone tomorrow night, either way they'll be up against a sterner test from more competitive opponents than they were tonight.

Tonight's attendance was swollen by a coach load of three headed
Gorgons, smuggled over from Edinburgh Zoo's rare breeds section.

Thankfully, most of the radio talk centred around Celtic, including their £65,000 a week loan signing, getting beat at Kilmarnock.
That cheered a few people up, until the 'Hibs factor' took hold and they realised that this now meant Hearts 'nearest and dearest' were not only just two points behind Celtic any more, but their position has strengthened by virtue of the result at Rugby Park tonight, they actually have a game in hand on them now.
Hearts don't have a game on Saturday it's the Scottish Cup weekend, Hibs do though, a fifth round one.
Ironically Hearts next fixture is away against Celtic, a defeat would most likely mean a plummet into the bottom half of the table, a victory would be a massive leg up for Hibernian in their quest to break into a gap between the Old Firm duopoly.
The last team outside of Rangers and Celtic to finish in the top two was Hearts in 2006, that is starting to look like a long, long time ago right now.
Seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to find somewhere to put your Sky dish

I teamed up with Steve McCann, the author the following blog - http://thetravellingfan.blogspot.com/ at both McDiarmid Park and Fir Park, his views on both games ought to be worth reading once he's got over the ordeal of being exposed to two such absolutely shocking matches in the space of just four days and can face putting his experiences into words.
It certainly helped to break up the tedium of the 'entertainment' served up at both grounds having some decent companions around.

I have seriously tried to dig up a few positives out of the recent happenings at Heart of Midlothian, but the deeper I've looked ... the worse things appears to be.
Csaba Laszlo won the Manager of the Year award in the SPL last season, then the club got rid of four of their better players and didn't bring in any adequate replacements. Laszlo found it hard work to mould what he had left to work with into a winning team and ultimately paid the price for not have the necessary expertise to make a silk purse out of a sows ear ... not entirely all his own fault, though persisting with the tactics he had adopted was.
Now Jim Jefferies must cobble the whole sorry mess together and try to take the same team, with the same substandard players, forward.
It's kind of on a par with trying to make a whole picture out of an 11 piece jigsaw that has four or five pieces missing. There are still a few quality players at Hearts, but there are just too many who aren't up to the task.
Like Laszlo said in a press conference shortly before he was sacked "He (Vladimir Romanov) wants me to make meat soup, but gives me only bones to work with" well, that is an edited version of his long winded cooking analogy, but it's the gist of what he was saying.

Right, now where did I leave my car?
It's time to head back to the 'sunny' south.