Saturday, 13 November 2010

Tumult at Tynecastle

Hearts press the Celtic defences
Given that my last experience of hopping on a bus and watching a midweek game at Tynecastle hadn't been entirely positively, I umm-ed and ah-ed a bit over this one. But in the end, upon discovering (to my astonishment) that it was still possible to get a decent ticket for Hearts' SPL clash with Celtic that night before the game, I succumbed. I'm definitely glad I did.

I wouldn't swap my match days with Dumbarton for the world. But sometimes it is good to get to watch a live game at a significantly higher level, and to soak up a bit of the 'big match' atmosphere. This one was buzzing, particularly where I was sitting, in the spacious and comfortable Wheatfield Stand, adjacent to the corner where the Jambos' faithful crossed words with the Hoops' travelling support.

Given the mighty financial and footballing gulf between the Old Firm and the rest in the Scottish Premier League, I had braced myself for disappointment in my hopes for an upset. Hearts aren't bad, but Celtic came into this one off the back of a 9-0 drubbing of Aberdeen, and though few thought that would happen again in Gorgie, there was an understandable air of tension and apprehension among the home support.

Waving goodbye...
That soon changed. The Bhoys looked lacklustre, for sure. But nothing should detract from the determination and skill that Hearts displayed. This was a high-tempo game where concentration was vital if they were to succeed. For the most part, perhaps with the exception of those early moments in the second half when the Jambos looked as if they might try to sit back on a 1-0 lead with what would almost certainly have been disastrous consequences, they kept on top of both the match and the opposition - and, crucially, not just when in possession.

Technically, this match was far from flawless, but it had all the ingredients of a great game: passion, atmosphere, pace, constant endeavour, a couple of decisive goals - even a red card on the pitch and one for Celtic manager Gordon Lennon, too, for his (justified but over-exerted) complaint about a penalty call. The Hearts fans taunted the frankly rather unlovely Glasgow visitors - who didn't appear to have heard the tannoy appeal against sectarian chants - with "It's a conspiracy!" when they scored or got a decision. Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a fine 2-0 home win.

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