AFTER a summer of uncertainty, Hearts finally got back to football last night, but their match against Dinamo Bucharest simply served to show just how difficult it will be for Gary Locke to preserve his side’s top-flight status this season.
Dinamo Bucharest - Matei (16, 51), Thomas (21), Rotariu (73), Danciulescu (86)
Hearts - Hamill (62 pen)
The Hearts manager will have to work with a threadbare squad following the administration process and the reality of fielding a team made up largely of youngsters will have hit home to the supporters to who travelled to Leigh Sports Village, just outside Manchester, to see their side concede five times in the friendly clash with their Romanian opponents.
Around 200 Hearts supporters made the trip south, although the team itself had to rely on free travel from an Edinburgh businessman to make the trip south possible.
Despite the scoreline, Locke will have been grateful for Charlie Irons’ help in making the trip possible, as the tough test provided by Bucharest, who have spent the last ten days training in Leeds, could prove vital, not only in their quest for fitness, but also in forming this side as a unit.
In fairness to the Hearts manager, Bucharest are well ahead of the Gorgie side and he went into the game without club captain Danny Wilson.
Also missing was Callum Paterson who, although a defender, is likely to provide much of the goal threat from a more advanced position when the domestic season kicks off next month. Locke said: “You’re never happy to lose five goals as a manager. But they are a Champions League quality side and it was a good test for the boys.”
Despite their handicaps, Hearts had an early chance when Jamie Walker picked out David Smith and the youngster launched a strong right-foot shot at goalkeeper Kristijan Naumovski, which flew just wide of his left-hand post.
The Romanians hit back straight away when Andrei Vastag whipped the ball in from the right and it fell to Alexandru, but his shot was just tipped over by MacDonald.
Bucharest took the lead with just over 15 minutes gone and it was a good finish from Cosmin Matei after he collected from Laurentiu Rus.
And they doubled their advantage five minutes later when former Hamilton Accies player Joel Thomas stepped away from Kevin McHattie’s challenge just on the edge of the six-yard box with ease and calmly picked his spot before slotting beyond MacDonald.
Bucharest started this match well ahead of Hearts in their preparations, having already faced Oldham Athletic, Livingston and Ayr United, and their superior fitness levels were obvious in the opening 45 minutes.
Srdjan Luchin could have made it three, only for him to send his header over the bar when he was left standing in clear space and then Ionut Serban.
Hearts did come close before the break when Walker’s cross was met by McHattie and he was unlucky to see his stinging effort blocked by the keeper’s legs.
Dinamo’s third goal was a well-worked one. Thomas playing a neat one-two with Alexandru Curtean and picked out Matei for his second of the night.
Hearts did pull one back just after the hour and it came from the penalty spot after Luchin brought down Dale Carrick inside the box, Jamie Hamill converting from 12 yards with his right boot.
Thomas had played a pivotal role and he was again at the centre of the action as Bucharest rounded off the scoring, setting up Dorin Rotariu, who lifted the ball over MacDonald.