Football: Hearts reliant on Rousset

Heart of Midlothian 1 McPherson 23 Kilmarnock 1 Henry 34 Atten dance: 15,338
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The Independent Online
HEARTS missed the opportunity to regain the leadership of the Scottish Premier League, albeit for perhaps only 24 hours, when John Henry's goal allowed Kilmarnock to plunder precious points from Tynecastle.

With Celtic not due to play until today, the home crowd had sensed that the moment was right for a peremptory strike. However, but for their goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, the Edinburgh club would be looking up from a greater distance.

Their manager, Jim Jefferies, resisted the temptation to alter his successful side, despite the signing of Lee Makel on Friday from Huddersfield. Instead, Makel had to be content with a place on the bench.

However, the optimism which had seen another rush by supporters to fill Tynecastle was almost punctured in the opening minutes as Rousset was forced to pull off two fine saves to prevent Kilmarnock from scoring.

Only 80 seconds had elapsed when Paul Wright struck a crisp shot on the turn which looked like finding the corner of the net until Rousset smothered it. A minute later, the 6ft 5in French international reacted superbly to turn a header from Gary Holt past the post and then his alertness denied Henry's angled shot in the 11th minute after Stefano Salvatori had given away a free-kick on the edge of the area.

Kilmarnock were simply running the game, and things got worse for Hearts when their captain Gary Locke was stretchered off after 21 minutes when he damaged his knee which required cruciate ligament surgery in 1996 and kept him out for a year.

Locke's replacement was Makel and the former Newcastle and Blackburn midfielder made an immediate impact, helping to put Hearts in front with his first touch in the 24th minute. His perfectly flighted corner was glanced on by David Weir to the feet of Dave MacPherson and the centre- back showed extraordinary coolness in drilling his shot into the net.

Kilmarnock continued to probe at Hearts' defence and it took everything that the impressive Rousset knew to keep them out, denying both Wright and Jim McIntyre when both strikers were through.

The reward for Kilmarnock came in the 33rd minute, when Henry equalised. Pat Nevin,whose trickery caused all sorts of problems, found Holt, whose cutback was clinically finished off by the right boot of Henry.

Hearts missed a superb chance in the 52nd minute when Steve Fulton hit an inviting free-kick but Weir and Thomas Flogel both missed the ball.

Hearts brought on their talismanic substitute Jose Quitongo in the search for the elusive goal and the little Angolan almost provided it in the 65th minute but Gordon Marshall held his shot.

Hearts survived another scare in the 73rd minute when Wright struck the inside of the post with a right-foot shot.