Hearts v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 15th January 2010
With the disaster of 2009 now a fading memory, we'll be looking to keep up our perfect start to the new decade at Tynecastle tomorrow afternoon against Hearts. It won't be easy.
This is a warm up for our Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final against the Jambos in a few weeks time and, if I had to choose, I'd rather win that one than tomorrow. I'm not usually like that, but our league form has picked up slightly and we've only made the League Cup final once in our entire history. However, in an ideal world we'd win both games!
Hearts are a big challenge at the best of times, but they're bound to be hurting after being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Aberdeen on Saturday. Tynecastle is never an easy place to go - although we've won there twice since being promoted - and if we play like we have done in the last few games we could be on the end of a hiding. However, if tomorrow goes like the last few matches, Chris Innes will probably pop up with a late winner against the run of play! Alternatively, a repeat of the result when we beat them 2-1 at St. Mirren Park earlier this season - our first league win there - would do just fine.
There will be one notable absence from the Saints team tomorrow following Stephen McGinn's departure to Watford. We all knew he was going to leave sooner or later, but it would have been nice if he had stayed until the summer. My preference would be to put Steven Robb wide left and Andy Dorman wide right, leaving Hugh Murray and Steven Thomson in the middle. However, with Stephen O'Donnell, Garry Brady and Allan Johnston all available for selection, it's not the easiest of choices to have to make.
The rest of the team will be relatively straightforward and I can only envisage one change to the side that beat Aberdeen on Tuesday night. Craig Dargo will almost certainly come in for Michael Higdon, with the big striker relegated to the bench. The rest will be as you were, although McGinn's departure means we need to dig out another under-21 player from somewhere. Chris Smith and Tom Brighton are still out with injury, although Mo Camara could be back in the squad.
Hearts have had a reasonable half season so far, although are probably a little further behind the Europa League spot than they would like. it had looked at one stage as if they would struggle to make it into the top six, but they should be Ok. Csaba Lazlo is the longest serving manager under Mad Vlad Romanov's reign, but the Hungarian does seem to be trying to work his exit route. He's spent much of the last few weeks moaning about his squad and asking for a striker, the sort of behaviour that would be enough to see his predecessors hanged, rather than sacked.
You can see Lazlo's point, however. It seems every year or so Hearts sell a player for a reasonable amount of money, such as Craig Gordon or Christophe Berra, and the manager - whoever it may be - doesn't get any of the money to strengthen the squad. It's a weird situation. Romanov is supposedly a millionaire but he doesn't like spending his money on players, leaving his manager's to sign players on free transfers - although they will be on decent wages. As a result, they lack a regular goalscoring striker, something Lazlo wants to resolve.
Still, the rest of the team is quite handy. Michael Stewart and Andrew Driver are more than capable of getting a few goals, while Ian Black has done well since arriving from Inverness Caley Thistle. Suso looks dangerous up front, with his trickery capable of causing teams a whole host of problems. Christian Nade is a handful when he is in the mood, while at the back Jose Goncalves is pretty solid and capable of scoring from set pieces. Lee Wallace has good delivery and is tipped for a move elsewhere, so they have more than players capable of causing us problems all over the park. We'll need to be at our best to get anything from this one.