Danny GRAINGER'S stunning 35-yard free-kick and a goal crafted by the artistry of David Templeton sealed a relatively comfortable 3-0 win for Hearts in a pre-season friendly at East Fife last night.
The Methil side, managed by Gorgie great John Robertson, presented a worthwhile test of the Jambos' sharpness and passing but could not prevent Lee Wallace putting the visitors in front prior to half-time before Grainger and Arvydas Novikovas struck further goals in the second half.
No fewer than 24 players tied to the Tynecastle club took to the turf at New Bayview, including ten half-time Hearts substitutes and, in Robertson's East Fife side, three on-loan Jambos - Matthew Park, Robert Ogleby, and trialist goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.
Stephen Elliott and John Sutton proved willing runners in the Edinburgh side's first-half attack, with the latter drawing an impressive save from Ridgers in the opening exchanges. Ian Black had the 20-year-old custodian beaten moments later, but his low 25-yard shot hit the base of the left-hand post.
Jefferies elected to hand the No.1 jersey to Hungarian Janos Balogh, the manager confirming that Jamie MacDonald will start Thursday's friendly against Ludwigsfelder in Germany while Marian Kello is earmarked to take over for Saturday's test at Union Berlin. Balogh - with the exception of a couple of heart-in-mouth throw-outs in the first half - advanced his case to be named top-choice goalkeeper this coming season with a display of fine handlin, especially in the 20th minute when clawing away Darren Smith's shot to prevent the ball flying into the top right-hand corner.
Another fine block by Balogh just over a quarter of an hour later spared the blushes of defender Andy Webster, who was too easily turned by the nimble Ross Wallace but saw his team's last line of defence perform a stunning reflex save to tip the East Fife man's 12-yard shot over the bar.
Wallace's opener, a simple close-range finish, at the other end on 40 minutes was barely against the run of play but was only Hearts' second shot on target. On reflection of a stunted and slow first half, Jefferies may have chosen to inject some youthful fire and pace at the interval - so it was just as well such a move was part of his plan all along.
Templeton and Novikovas entered the fray to add some glorious trickery and clever build-up play to replace a previously flat-footed attack on the flanks.
An antithesis to the type of jinking approach play that defines the two diminutive wingers arrived in the form of Grainger's long-range bullet on 59 minutes, with the ball soaring into the top right-hand corner to double Hearts' lead.
Less than a minute later, Templeton danced past three closing defenders on the outer left-hand corner of the penalty area and curled a shot beyond Ridgers' outstretched arm and on to the right-hand post. The rebounding ball fell directly at the feet of Novikovas, who controlled before firing in a low shot to take the score to 3-0.
"This game was all about getting a feel of the ball, getting it passed around and getting your touch right," said Jefferies. "The most important thing is to get it right before the first game of the season.
"It was more encouraging watching the second half: the movement was better, they passed it better, they passed it quicker. The first team boys are saying they just softened (East Fife] up for (the second string] to cash in. I think it's a little reminder for the more experienced boys that they'll be pushed all the way because there were some good performances in the second half.
"John (Sutton] was unlucky a couple of times in the first half. Danny Grainger came up with what we all know he is capable of doing and looked solid. Sometimes a couple of passes went astray but I felt he had a good period for his first time. Wee Mehdi started the game well but then, as he's learned, he's maybe had too many touches of it. But that's something we'll knock out of him.
"He played some terrific passes early on to Lee Wallace, but sometimes he overdid it a little bit. He's probably a player we want on the ball, we want to take a lot of touches, but until he has three-four games under his belt we'll see a big improvement."
Fifers manager Robertson cited Grainger's howitzer as a turning point in the game. "I don't care if you've got the biggest wall in the world - you're not saving that free-kick," said Robertson, 46. "Then, the quality of Templeton and Novikovas coming on - and the pace more importantly - as we were tiring, they were jet-streaming. It was an inevitable conclusion but we hung in there.
"All-in-all, a fantastic night for us and bonus ball was the fact there was a fantastic crowd. We were delighted with the home fans, but for Hearts to bring over 1200-1300 fans was fabulous.
"What they saw is the strength and depth of their squad is sensational. When you consider they've still got Kyle, Elliott, Driver, Jonsson, Glen to come in, there's going to be a real clamour for places there."
East Fife: Ridgers; Park, Ovenstone, White, Cook; Johnstone, Smith, Muir, Linn; Dalzell, Wallace. Subs: Durie, Young, Ogleby, Newbigging, Brown, Campebell.
Hearts (first half): Balogh; Wallace, Webster, Zaliukas, Hamill; Taouil, Black, Mrowiec, Stevenson; Elliott, Sutton.
Hearts (second half): Balogh; Grainger, Barr, R. McGowan, J. Thomson; Templeton, Robinson, Obua, Novikovas; Holt; Smith. Sub not used: J. MacDonald.