100% home record goes as Killie win
Hearts 100% home record lay in tatters this evening as Csaba Laszo's men picked up seamlessly from their desolate showing in Dundee with another toothless performance against Jim Jefferies' willing Kilmanock side. Mehdi Taouil set the ball rolling for the visitors with a fine 18th-minute free-kick, and although Larry Kingston stroked home an equaliser before half-time, the visitors clinched a deserved victory with Craig Bryson's 82nd-minute counter.
After another demolition in Dundee at the hands of Craig Levein, Hearts made two changes for the visit of another former manager to Tynecastle. Out, of course, went Eggert Jonsson, suspended after his sending off at Tannadice and replaced at right back by Jason Thomson, while up front there was a first start in maroon for Danish loan signing Mike Tullberg, who replaced Audrius Ksanavicius in attack.
Killie welcomed Danny Invincibile back to the starting line-up and arrived in Edinburgh looking to get their campaign back on the rails, after an unbeaten first four games had subsided into three straight losses in recent weeks. And the lack of confidence in both sides became all too quickly apparent in an opening ten minutes littered with midfielder errors.
Things calmed down a little as the rain and wind eased though, and soon we had Larry Kingston finding space on the right to tease in a cross towards Tullberg, whose attempt to head toward goal failed when the ball hit him on the back of the neck and span away to safety. Unperturbed, though, he was soon in the thick of the action again, this time sliding onto another Kingston delivery from the right. Again though the contact was not decisive and the ball dribbled well wide of Combe's goal.
Killie had buzzed around Kello's box looking busy if not particularly menacing, but that changed after 18 minutes when Jamie Mole sent the breaking David Fernandez tumbling just outside the Hearts penalty area. It looked a promising position and Killie had just the man to take full advantage. Step forward Moroccan international Mehdi Taouil who curled a superb free-kick over the wall and well away from the helpless Kello to give the men from Ayrshire a precious lead.
Hearts initially did not look as if they had much of a response in them as they huffed and puffed their way in the general direction of Alan Combe's goal. However, although the visitors play was a little more composed, they had no more cutting edge than before, which left us with the generally unedifying spectacle of game head tennis inside the centre circle as the half-hour approached.
Tullberg's contribution, while energetic, consisted of little more than chasing down the howitzers fired in his direction by Kello or Zaliukas or Berra. Still, his aerial presence was welcome, given the long-ball game his team-mates had reverted to, and it was his persistence that led to the home side's deserved equaliser after 34 minutes.
Mole's leap touched the ball onto the Dane charging through the inside left channel, from where he played the pass inside to find Stewart. The midfielder's shot was partially blocked, but the loose ball span kindly for Kingston who side-footed coolly home from twelve yards.
The rain returned at the start of the second period, and whether it was the slicker surface or the bracing conditions, the players seemed to respond with a much more up-tempo offering. The visitors clearly believed that the home side were there for the taking, and maintained their adventurous outlook with Invincibile, Fernandez and Taouil all charged with providing the supply for the giant Sammon ploughing a lone furrow up front.
As so often this season, Hearts' ploy seemed to be to absorb the attacks of the opposition before seeking to take advantage on the break, and this they almost did just before the hour mark when good work by Thomson on the right saw the youngster sweep the ball in for Kingston in the middle. The Ghanaian's first-time strike was powerful enough but just slightly too high, the ball fairly fizzing into the Gorgie Stand.
Ksanavicius and then Christian Nade replaced Mole and Tullberg respectively shortly afterward, but neither was able to do much to alter the shape of the game. Nade looked tidy in possession and held the ball up well on occasion, but Ksanavicius came to this observer's notice only once when he ambitiously went for goal from a free-kick on the right-hand touchline. The only danger to Combe was in cricking his neck as the ball sailed high over his head.
The former Dundee United keeper did have to look lively a few minutes later, when a neat turn and pass from Nade left Kingston with the opportunity to shoot from an angle only around eight yards from goal. The effort was on target but not powerful enough, and the keeper responded with a smart save low at his left-hand post.
Invincibile continued to try to set things up from the right, but he found Lee Wallace in increasingly commanding form and prepared to give the Australian little in the way of encouragement as the visitors sought a winning goal. To be fair, it didn't look like either side had the guile to open up the opposition defence, and in the end it was entirely appropriate that game should be decided with a straightforward move, a moment of carelessness at the back, and a simple finish. Unfortunately for Hearts, this all transpired at the School End of the ground, where substitute Donovan Simmonds rose to flick on a long ball from his defence, Stewart and Zaliukas were caught flat-footed, and Craig Bryson nipped between them to apply a low finish past the exposed Kello.
That left the home side eight minutes plus injury time in which to rescue a point, but apart from two Kingston headers, one over the crossbar and one narrowly wide of the right-hand post, they never looked like troubling the scorer again. The final minutes slipped away all too quickly leaving us contemplating a third defeat in four matches, the end of Csaba Laszlo's 100% home record, and with all that a slip to fifth place in the league.
Poor day all round.
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Hearts: Kello; Thomson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Kingston, Karipidis, Stewart, Mikoliunas (Makela 87); Mole (Ksanavicius 58); Tullberg (Nade 62). Booked: Mole. Subs not used: Balogh, Palazuelos, Aguiar, Rapnik.
Kilmarnock: Combe; Lilley, Ford, Wright; Hamill; Invincibile, Taouil, Pascali, Bryson; Fernandez, Sammon (Simmonds 74). Booked: Taouil, Wright, Fernandez, Hamill, Wright. Subs not used: Rascle, Murray, Gibson, Skelton, Flannigan, Cox.
Referee: Craig Thomson
Top man: Larry Kingston
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