Falkirk 2 Hearts 1
Before Saturday’s match Falkirk were bottom of the league with no points. In fact they were the only team in the four Scottish divisions not to have chalked up any points so far. So with Hearts being Hearts, we allowed them their first win and points of the season.
Despite our impressive start, and Falkirk’s dismal one, the Bairns must still have known that this was a great chance to finally get off the mark. Even with Hearts’ proneness to fail in situations such as these notwithstanding, Falkirk away has never been a fixture we look forward to. Since 1992, in all competitions, Hearts have only managed two wins in thirteen attempts.
Moving from Brockville to the Falkirk stadium during this period, it seems, has done nothing to reverse this trend. But surely there has to be more of a reason than: ‘Falkirk away is one of our bogey fixtures’.
John Hughes is a former Hibs player and, in recent years, his added determination to get one over his old rivals may have filtered down to his players come match day. However, if this were the case, then surely Falkirk would have a better record against us at Tynecastle – since Hughes became manager, Falkirk have never won in against Hearts in Gorgie.
Another argument put forward by some is that there has been no real progress under Csaba Laszlo and the victories so far this season – three wins in five – display nothing more than the club’s ability to paper over the cracks.
I believe this argument fallacious for a number of reasons.
To begin with, two of the matches in which we have recorded victories, we have been pegged back and still gone on to win. On the opening day of the season, Motherwell drew level with less than ten minutes of the ninety remaining. In our next home fixture, against St Mirren, we were leading until the 70th minute when the visitors equalised with their first attempt on target.
In both of these instances we managed to grind out a win, a mentality that was rarely on display during the previous campaign.
In the last two seasons, Hearts have also found it difficult against the newly promoted sides. Last year we only managed one win in four attempts against Gretna, while the season before we failed to beat St Mirren at all over three matches. We have already beaten this year’s new-boys Hamilton away, their first defeat on their home turf since April last year.
Our start to the season compared to last is another reason for believing that things have actually improved under Csaba. After five matches we were sitting ninth with five points and had just recorded our first win of the season. The previous four matches had included a 1-1 draw at home to Gretna and a 5-0 thrashing by Celtic.
Currently we sit fifth (or joint fourth on points) with nine points, only one off second and four off the top. Hardly remarkable progress but steady nonetheless.
On top of this we are playing better football. There are still some weak links in the side but at least the team is trying to pass the ball about and retain possession a bit more.
Mole is not the answer in attack; he did make a decent start to the season, but he has so far been the only fully fit option available to Csaba. Nade still isn’t 100%, Tullberg is injured and Glen has himself only just recovered.
Despite the deficiencies of our attack we have still managed eight goals so far and statistically you would think that it is the defence that needs tightening up if anything. Left back Lee Wallace can be faulted for three or four goals this season, including Falkirk’s opener at the weekend, which came after only three minutes.
He has ability and potential to be better but for the moment he needs a few weeks on the sidelines. The trouble we have is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else competing for his position. Csaba said, while the transfer window was open, that full backs were needed because we had began the season with two young players in these positions and when they are not playing well they need to be taken out before their confidence suffers too much. However, no full backs were brought in and Wallace is costing us in most matches.
At the beginning of August I did say that the most important thing for me this season was turning Tynecastle back into a place where other teams didn’t pick up too many points. At this stage last season we had taken only one point from two home games against Hibs and Gretna. So far this season we have taken maximum points from our two home fixtures.
I admit that not everything is rosy at the moment but there are signs of improvement. The squad is still quite thin in places and other than Obua, Tullberg, Mrowiec, Kello, Balogh and McDonald – the latter three of are these goalkeepers and two of the five are currently injured -, Csaba is working, and has already shown some progress, with the same squad of players.
Half way through the season will of course give us a better indication of how well the team is actually doing but for now it seems that Csaba has steadied the ship and has us not only playing better football but winning matches we wouldn’t have done last season. With the exception of Falkirk away.
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