Hearts 1 Dunfermline 1: Draw calls Romanov's sell-off bluff

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The Independent Football

Being born with a silver spoon in their mouths, did not spare the royal Romanovs from the Russian Revolution. Vladimir Romanov is more a victim of foot in mouth, after watching the threat to his Hearts players backfire yesterday.

The Edinburgh club's owner had said his team would all be sold to "teams like Dunfermline Athletic" if they failed to defeat that very side at Tynecastle. The irony of that failure was that Jim Hamilton, who netted the visitors' equaliser, was a former Hearts employee. The only crumb of comfort was that Rangers' own slip-up ensured Hearts remained in second place in the League.

The Hearts players' anxiety about the loss, albeit temporarily at this stage, of a fourth manager in less than 18 months under Romanov prompted three of them to hijack Friday's press conference after the owner saidthey would be sold if they failed to defeat Dunfermline.

Steven Pressley, along with Paul Hartley and Craig Gordon, used his status as captain to declare there was "significant unrest in the dressing room" and spoke of two difficult years under the capricious Lithuanian millionaire whose interference in team matters had gone beyond the pale. When Valdas Ivanauskas fled to Lithuania after last week's defeat by Kilmarnock and sought two weeks' leave of absence to resolve his stress, the fuse was lit for revolt.

Romanov appointed Eduard Malofeev, a Russian who speaks no English, as Ivanauskas's temporary replacement. The hardline Malofeev had described the Hearts players as pampered and after several confusing training sessions, the players demanded an end to the eccentricities of the Romanov regime.

The millionaire may also now be losing the stands as well as the dressing room. Hearts fans have backed Romanov raucously, out of gratitude for saving the club from bankruptcy over its £20 million debt two years ago. However, many now feel he has pushed his powerful ego too far. Romanov came out half an hour early to sit in the directors' box but there was no applause.

What everyone wanted to see was if the Tynecastle Three would pay a price for their public dissent. Vlad may be mad but he's not stupid - the Scotland players were in the side and Gordon's value was underlined when he saved to stop Stephen Simmons giving Dunfermline the lead after two minutes.

Hartley's quick thinking gave Hearts the lead after 11 minutes when Pressley's long ball was misjudged by Roddy McKenzie. The Dunfermline goalkeeper tried to paw the ball to safety but Hartley pounced with a clever back-heel that was stabbed past McKenzie by Andrius Velicka.

However, Hearts did not build on their first-half superiority and three minutes into the second half Hamilton struck a controversial equaliser. Owen Morrison's corner was flicked on by Simmons and Hamilton bundled the ball over the line.

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