Nade goal edges out Hamilton
Hearts made it two wins in four days at Tynecastle this evening, but they did not have things all their own way as Billy Reid's hard-working Hamilton side pushed them hard after Christian Nade's early strike. Although the home side created what few clear-cut opportunities there were in the game, it was the visitors who dominated possession, especially in the second half which they spent camped around the Hearts penalty area. That they did not find the equaliser their play perhaps merited was mainly down to the resoluteness displayed by the Hearts back-line, with Christophe Berra, Lee Wallace and Robbie Neilson all playing a crucial role in what was at times a rather desperate rearguard action.
That rearguard action was executed by a team shuffled significantly from the eleven that had won at Paisley the previous Saturday. With Michael Stewart suspended and Saulius Mikoliunas injured, we found Christos Karipidis and David Obua restored to midfield, while elsewhere Marius Zaliukas returned to central defence. Jason Thomson was the player to make way.
Nade had received much praise following Saturday's gargantuan effort, and indeed for the improvement of his overall play throughout the course of the season. All that was missing was a goal for the big Frenchman, and he soon rectified that in this match, opening the scoring after just six minutes. Latching onto a deft flick from Bruno Aguiar, he ignored the calls for offside from the Hamilton defence to race towards the box. Visiting defenders McLaughlin and Canning looked as if they had done enough to crowd him out, but with Tomas Cerny reluctant to come from his line, the Frenchman stretched out a leg to toe the ball under the goalkeeper and into the net.
Unfortunately for the home support that was very much the highlight of an uninspiring first 45 minutes. Hamilton showed off some of the neat passing for which they became known last season, but only once did they look like penetrating the Hearts defences when Lucas Akins was released into the area by James McCarthy. Balogh was off his line sharply to smother the danger.
Alex Neil became the first player in Dougie McDonald's notebook for a late challenge on the clearing Zaliukas, before Christophe Berra fired a free-kick into the box which the lively Nade controlled instantly, before spinning and directing a shot just wide of Cerny's right hand post.
That was midway through the half. Seven minutes later and the Frenchman was denied again after being released by David Obua who battled well to win possession on half-way. His well-weighted pass released Nade down the inside-right channel, from where he elected to shoot from an unlikely position at the corner of the box. Cerny saved well above his head, though, before Aguiar failed to get the bouncing ball under control in time to trouble the keeper.
As you might have figured by now, Nade was the linchpin of the whole team, his work-rate in defence as impressive as his guile and creativity in attack. And Hearts needed it as the visitors tested Janos Balogh's prowess under the high ball to the full with a series of tricky crosses. The Hungarian dealt with them all - more or less - but of course the Lanarkshire men do not possess a player of the ability of Shaun Maloney to capitalise on any looseness around the box.
Neither do Hearts. If they did, we might have seen a second goal before the break. As it was, Aguiar and Obua conspired to get in each other's way after Lee Wallace delivered a tempting cross from the left, and the ball ended up looping high over the bar.
Billy Reid swapped Lucas Akins for Richard Offiong at half time and the big striker was quick to work his way into the game, latching onto a teasing ball from David Graham to head goalward from eight yards. Fortunately for Hearts, he had to stretch to meet the ball meaning that the header lacked the power required to trouble Balogh. The Hungarian clutched easily low to his right.
Hearts' response saw Obua break quickly down the right and ignore the supporting Eggert Jonsson, electing instead to ping the ball into the middle for the galloping Nade. Sadly, the Frenchman's gallop was not quite fast enough, and he could only direct a stretching effort high over the crossbar.
If we thought that heralded an entertaining second period ahead, we were sadly mistaken. Nade and Obua were withdrawn shortly afterwards and with them went most of the creativity in the home side. That allowed Hamilton to take charge of the midfield, and they made decent use of their possession, keeping Hearts hemmed in for long periods of the second half.
Even given their dominance, though, they failed to seriously trouble Balogh in the home side's goal. Their only real effort of note came with little over ten minutes remaining when the tireless Neil got on the end of another devilish cross from David Graham. But under pressure from the hard-working Berra, he could only direct his header well over the crossbar.
Hearts: Balogh; Jonsson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Driver, Palazuelos, Karipidis, Obua (Neilson 59); Aguiar; Nade (Mole 64). Booked: Mole. Subs not used: Kello, Makela, Thomson, Templeton, Balatoni.
Hamilton: Cerny; McClenahan (Thomas 84), Canning, McLaughlin, Easton; McCarthy, Mensing, Neil, McArthur (Gibson 76), Graham; Akins (Offiong 46). Booked: Neil. Subs not used: Murdoch, Elebert, Swailes, Lyle.
Referee: Dougie McDonald
Top man: Christian Nade
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