THE thinking that spectators will turn out only for competitive football was knocked on the head by a turn-out of nearly 18,000 for Alex MacDonald’s testimonial game at Tynecastle last night.
The attraction of Kevin Keegan playing for Hearts against Rangers helped to produce a pay-off for the Hearts player-manager of around £30,000.
Keegan, who impressed with his attitude even before a ball was kicked – he took time to sign a host of autographs before the match – did not sell the big crowd short. His performance was the usual mix of energy and innovation. He brought class to a Hearts side who played with considerable flair on the night.
There was a goal to remember involving the prompting of Keegan and the execution of John Robertson. And there was another good performance from Hearts’ midfield prospect, Gary Mackay, and the man-of-the-night, Alex MacDonald, was an eager and lively contributor to his own match.
Rangers offered a dazzling touch or two from Cooper and their usual effort and direction in grabbing goals through Clark, MacDonald and Ferguson. They carried a substantial following from Glasgow who paid their own tribute to a man who served Rangers long as a player.
The presence of Keegan had an invigorating effect on the Hearts midfield. The former England captain produced some delightfully delicate touches on the ball and along with MacDonald himself and the free-running Mackay, produced much good football. It was from Keegan’s crossfield pass that Hearts took an early lead in the sixth minute.
McDonald, Bone and Bowman were also involved before Mackay smacked a right-foot shot past Walker from 16 yards.
Hearts were intent on playing showpiece stuff and there was much to admire as Keegan flicked and darted and Mackay showed a pleasing willingness to shoot on sight. The build-up was measured and clever and the big crowd enjoyed every minute of it.
If Hearts should have been more comfortably in the lead after the first 20 minutes or so, the more direct approach by Rangers produced dividends in the period before half-time. Just after goalkeeper Smith had made a good save from McClelland, he was at fault in failing to cut out a cross-cum-shot from John MacDonald which brought the equaliser as it cannoned into the net off Roddy McDonald.
There was no doubt Rangers were the more forceful outfit before the interval and deserved to go in front in the 39th minute. If most of the paying customers had come to pay tribute to Alex MacDonald and most wanted to see Keegan in action, there was a glimpse of Davie Cooper’s brilliance in the 39th minute. The Scotland winger beat a couple of men before pinpointing McCoist, whose shot was blocked. Clark was on hand to stab the ball home.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Hearts equalised courtesy of superb combination work between Keegan and John Robertson, Scotland’s young player of the year. The Hearts striker ran on to a terrific first-time pass from Keegan before turning Paterson and slipping the ball past Walker.
Rangers made a number of changes in personnel with Burns taking over from Dawson, McPherson replacing McClelland and Bruce going in for Walker in goal.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the night came in the 67th minute when Keegan produced some delightful high jinks in the Hearts penalty area, playing the team out of trouble with admirable cheek before setting up Alex MacDonald to inspire a counter-attack.
With 17 minutes remaining, Ferguson spoiled Alex MacDonald’s script with a third goal for Rangers, the substitute chipping Smith from close range.
Hearts: Smith, Kidd, Cowie, Jardine, R McDonald, Bowman, Keegan, Mackay, Bone, Robertson, A MacDonald.
Rangers: Walker, Mackinnon, Dawson, McClelland, Paterson, Munro, Russell, McCoist, Clark, MacDonald, Cooper.
Referee: J Duncan (Gorebridge).