Maroon Memories: Andrius Velicka comes off the bench to save Anthony Basso’s blushes
St Mirren 1, Hearts 3. SPL. Sunday, September 30, 2007
Hearts ground out their second away win of the season in unspectacular fashion to move into the top half of the SPL.
Their victory over a gritty but grim St Mirren side was not without controversy, as referee John Underhill came under fire from the home side with a series of contentious decisions.
Hearts looked to provide support to their solitary front man Christian Nade through Andrew Driver and Audrius Ksanavicius pushing forward when in possession in the St Mirren half, but their approach was generally just as cautious if often more cultured. St Mirren struggled to test Hearts’ debutant goalkeeper, Anthony Basso, who was deputising for the ill Steve Banks. The Frenchman did flap unconvincingly at one Franco Miranda free-kick and was later berated from the sidelines by manager Stephen Frail for a ludicrous attempt to dribble the ball out of his area which was almost punished by Stewart Kean.
He was also culpable for the goal which gave St Mirren hope of a late comeback, Mark Corcoran punishing Basso’s error to head home after Driver and Michael Stewart, with a softly awarded penalty, had put Hearts in control. Substitute Andrius Velicka safeguarded the victory by adding a late third goal for Hearts.
The eccentric Basso was perhaps fortunate not to have to face a penalty kick when the match was still deadlocked in the first half. Eggert Jonsson appeared to make contact with Stephen O’Donnell as the midfielder burst into the area, but referee Underhill waved play on. It was a reprieve Hearts made full use of, taking the lead five minutes before half-time. Stewart’s corner found Driver at the back post and his fierce low first-time shot beat goalkeeper Graeme Smithe.
Jose Goncalves then survived a claim for handball against him in the penalty area, the referee further infuriating the home supporters with his failure to spot the offence. Just a minute later, the official did point to the spot at the other end. Stewart tumbled under the merest hint of a challenge from David van Zanten and the Hearts midfielder got up to send Smith the wrong way from the spot.
Basso’s inability to cope with cross balls was finally exposed when a cross was completely missed by the keeper to allow substitute Corcoran to head into an empty net 12 minutes from time.
St Mirren’s hopes of salvaging a point were dispelled just five minutes later, however, when Velicka, who had just replaced the tiring Nade, was sent free down the left and toe-poked a clever low shot between Smith and his near post.
St Mirren: C Smith, D van Zanten, R McCay, W Haining (S Kean, 48), J Potter, G Mason, H Murray, S O’Donnell (M Corcoran, 59), F Miranda, C Birchall, B Mehmet (S McGinn, 69). Subs not used: R Brittain, M Docherty, G Brady, M Howard.
Hearts: A Basso, R Neilson, J Goncalves, C Berra, I Tall, L Kingston, E Jonsson, A Driver, M Stewart (M Zaliukas, 89), A Ksanavicius (C Elliot, 46), C Nade (A Velicka, 82). Subs not used:T Kancelskis, E Kurskis, R Palazuelos, K Ivaskevicius.
Referee: John Underhill.