McCarthy shines but Driver lifts Hearts

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The Independent Online

Andrew Driver maintained Heart of Midlothian's impressive start to the season as his decisive goal left Hamilton Academical mulling over the harsh facts of life in the top flight. The hosts displayed a defensive charity which will be punished at this level. Their manager, Billy Reid, will be aware of the bigger picture. That his club is even here at all is a minor miracle. The remarkable rise of Hamilton since returning to their home town in 2003, after eight nomadic years without a ground, ought to be a template for others in these credit-crunched times.

They eschewed expensive signings and what they saved on the wage bill, they spent on youth development. The synthetic pitch which Reid's team shared with 200 young players at New Douglas Park over the last five years allowed the most admired development policy outside the Old Firm to take root. Hamilton were forced by the SPL to jettison their artificial surface after winning the First Division title last May and the grass replacement was Reid's most expensive summer purchase, at £400,000. The Lanarkshire club, though, could easily recoup that sum – and more – if they sold their prize asset, James McCarthy.

Hamilton turned down an offer from Liverpool last season for the 17-year-old midfielder but a defeat last week at Kilmarnock saw him rested on the bench here.

However, an injury to the central defender Chris Swailes in the build-up to Marius Zaliukas's opener prompted the introduction of McCarthy. Swailes was clearly struggling as Andrew Driver whipped in a corner and Zaliukas planted a downward header past Tomas Cerny.

McCarthy almost made an immediate impact when Richard Offiong threaded a pass into the teenager's run but the Hearts goalkeeper, Marian Kello, bravely blocked. That was eclipsed by Cerny with a flying leap to touch a diving header from David Obua wide of the post.

Hearts, though, would not be denied and they doubled their lead after the break. A slack pass by the Hamilton defender David Elebert was compounded by an error from Simon Mensing, who gave the ball away to Driver, who steered an angled shot past Cerny.

Offiong ought to have restored parity in stoppage time after McCarthy's vision set him up, but he squandered the chance.

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