Maroon Memories: Vlad gets on the fans’ bus

Rudi Skacel made it six goals in six games wh he opened the scoring at Almondvale
Rudi Skacel made it six goals in six games wh he opened the scoring at Almondvale
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With majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov sat watching on from his seat amongst the Hearts supporters, the Jambos restored their five-point lead at the top of the SPL with their sixth straight win of the season under manager George Burley.

Romanov was enjoying a short stay in Edinburgh and met supporters on the morning of the match to outline his plans on increasing the capacity of Tynecastle Stadium, plus adding a hotel before he boarded a supporters’ bus to head off to Almondvale.

These were incredible times for the Hearts faithful as they swept their way to the top of the table, and all the more pleasing for them was to see Scots at the fore of these heady days.

Midfielder Paul Hartley capped a terrific week with a double after he had been commended for his displays in World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Norway. Alongside him were fellow Scotland internationals Andy Webster and Craig Gordon - whose stock was beginning to rise with two impressive displays in the qualifying double header. The buoyant Jambos enjoyed all the early pressure and it was no great surprise when they opened the scoring after 11 minutes.

It was even less of a surprise that the man who got the goal was Czech dangerman Rudi Skacel – his sixth goal in six games.

Skacel bundled home from two yards out into an unguarded net after Hartley had directed Roman Bednar’s cross back across goal.

Edgaras Jankauskas almost doubled the lead midway through the half when he met Steven Pressley’s cross beyond the back post, but his shot from a tight angle was well kept out by Roddy McKenzie. But Hearts did go two goals up after 26 minutes. Jamie McAllister curled in a free-kick from the right and Webster took advantage of poor marking by Dave Mackay to head past McKenzie.

The first threat to the Hearts goal almost brought about a goal, but Craig Gordon did brilliantly to push Mackay’s shot on the turn round the post.

Shortly afterwards Hearts made it 3-0. Roman Bednar broke free on the right and his perfectly judged square-ball gave Hartley a tap-in.

Gordon pulled off another terrific save just before half-time, stretching to tip Graham Barrett’s top-corner-bound free kick onto the bar and over.

But the keeper may feel he should have held a driven free kick from Graham Barrett moments later. Instead he spilled the effort, allowing Paul Dalglish to bundle the ball over the line. Hearts had started the second half poorly, but they extended their lead after 63 minutes when Neil Barrett was adjudged to have pulled the shirt of McAllister in the box and Hartley sent McKenzie the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Bednar could have got on the scoresheet with 15 minutes remaining but his glancing header from Robbie Neilson’s cross flew just wide.

Gordon produced his third excellent save of the game when he pushed a Derek Adams volley over the bar despite being on the ground as the result of a prior challenge.

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Fyssas, Pressley, Hartley, Webster, McAllister, Brellier, Jankauskas, Bednar, Skacel.