DUE to a shortage of midfielders, including Robert Tomaschek and Lee Makel, manager Jim Jefferies opted to field an unorthodox Hearts formation of a three-man attack. Spanish playmaker Juanjo, Gary McSwegan and Thomas Flogel spearheaded the front line and it certainly paid dividends as Hearts ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Dunfermline at Tynecastle.
Though probably forced into the blend of Juanjo, McSwegan and Flogel because of a shortage of fit midfield men, Jefferies’ faith in a system many coaches seem to regard as reckless was rewarded by his side’s first league win of the season.
Admittedly, Hearts’ command of the game was partly due to a flat, lifeless performance by Dunfermline, out of character with a bright start to the season. Jimmy Calderwood, their manager, blamed himself for taking Scott Thomson out of defence and using the player to man-mark Colin Cameron in midfield.
It was an honest admission but, in truth, Dunfermline’s malaise ran deeper than a positional switch. It was only after the appearance of Junior Mendes late in the game that they created any chances of note.
The Hearts forwards, by contrast, never allowed Dunfermline’s defenders time to settle on the ball.
Juanjo the little forward from Barcelona, was unable to secure a regular first-team spot the previous season when many thought that the player was too much of an eccentric individualist to thrive in the SPL.
Jefferies, though, was confident that if the forward learned his craft and understood more about how the Scottish game worked, then he could blossom into a match-winner.
His inclusion against the Fifers was Juanjo’s fourth consecutive appearance in Hearts’ starting line-up.
Apart from his beautifully-struck opening goal – a 20-yard half-volley which sped past the goalkeeper into the top right-hand corner of the net – the Spaniard unhinged the opposition with his willingness to run at defenders.
Juanjo’s ability to conjure up the unexpected and unlock a defence is a special gift which Jefferies believes has yet to reach fruition.
One area where Juanjo still had room for improvement was in his crossing.
So it was another step forward for the Tynecastle side that their second goal should come from a well worked set-piece. Juanjo’s corner from the left was flicked on at the near post by Steve Fulton and McSwegan came in at the back to volley the ball past Scott Thompson.
Elsewhere in the side, Robbie Neilson made an enthusiastic league debut at right-back, Darren Jackson worked a double shift in midfield and Steven Pressley maintained his outstanding form at centre-back. Consequently, Hearts travelled to Germany to meet Stuttgart in a UEFA Cup tie.