Football: Hearts still in good heart

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The Independent Online
Heart of Midlothian will aim to put their painful European lesson to good use as they concentrate on the domestic season north of the border.

The Edinburgh side were the only Scottish team to go out after they lost on the away goals rule to Red Star Belgrade in the qualifying round of the European Cup-Winners' Cup on Thursday.

The 1-1 draw at Tynecastle meant all their good work in the goalless first leg in Belgrade came to nothing. However, already their manager, Jim Jefferies, is looking forward. "We have a league match against Aberdeen on Sunday and then a Coca-Cola Cup match against St Johnstone and if we play like we did against Red Star then I'll be more than pleased," he said.

"A lot of new players have come into the team this season and it takes a while for them to get to know each other. I feel the team has done well for the short time they have all been together."

What disappointed Jefferies against Red Star was the manner in which they conceded the goal - headed by Vinko Marinovic - which put them out.

"We had no one three yards either side of him in the six-yard area. I cannot fault my players for their work-rate - we thought we did enough to go through but we gave it away.

"Red Star didn't put us out, we put ourselves out. Everything went according to plan and we got ourselves into a winning situation. But when you don't mark in your own six-yard box you are asking for trouble. At 1-0, I couldn't see them creating anything, but the disappointing thing is we gave it away."

Dave McPherson, who headed Hearts in front in 44 minutes, admitted the result was hard to take. "I would rather the team had played badly and won rather than the way it turned out," the Scotland defender said. "I've been through this away goals rule before when Rangers lost to Levski Sofia in the European Cup and it's hard to take. But we've nothing to be ashamed of and I think we can learn from this."

Llansantffraid will come back to earth with a bump next week after their European adventure came to an abrupt end on Thursday. The village side were gracious in defeat after their 5-0 Cup-Winners Cup reverse away to the Polish team, Ruch Chorzow, but now, after the dream, comes the return to the reality of League of Wales football, with a game against Holywell Town on Monday.

For their manager, Graham Breeze, however, the past couple of weeks has been a time he will never forget and he believes his side can only benefit from the experience.

"The dream is now over, and we have got to get our feet back on the ground and get on with the league," Breeze said. His side were only 1-0 down at half-time and had worked hard to match their opponents, but the Poles dominated the second half with a sparkling display.

"Ruch Chorzow played exceptionally good football," Breeze said. "They were too quick for us in most departments and I am sure they will go on to do well in the competition." He was encouraged by the efforts of his goalkeeper, Andy Mulliner, who played superbly. Only his heroics prevented total humiliation.

"Andy played the game of his life and proved he is one of the top goalkeepers at our level," Breeze insisted.

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