Hearts round off ‘difficult season’

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CONSIDERING they were running the risk of adding to their penalty should the SPL, at their meeting at Hampden today, decide that Hearts will continue to play at the highest level but kick off next season with a points deduction, it was to the players’ credit that they battled manfully and may indeed have sneaked a win but for the unfortunate own goal by Jamie Hamill which gave the home side a deserved point.

Aberdeen 1-1 Hearts

Scorers: Aberdeen - Hamill (og 78); Hearts - Stevenson (62)

Referee: C Allan

Attendance: 10,465

Aberdeen did enjoy the better of the play at Pittodrie, forcing a number of fine saves from Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald before Ryan Stevenson opened the scoring against the run of play. That could have broken the Dons’ spirits, but MacDonald was eventually beaten when Hamill succeeded only in turning the ball into his own net as he tried to cut out a Jonny Hayes cross.

MacDonald said: “It was one of those days where the saves were falling nicely for me. They were good camera saves and it’s just a shame that Jamie slipped for the own goal as it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet.

“There’s been a lot going on off the park at the club, so it’s been a difficult season. On a personal level it’s been my first full season as first choice, we got to a cup final and we played at Anfield and got a 1-1 draw. It’s been up and down.”

With doubts remaining around the future of the club after Lithuanian parent company UBIG was deemed insolvent, the goalkeeper said: “Obviously it’s worrying, just because nobody knows what’s going on at the moment. It’s difficult but we’re all professional and know we can’t influence anything. We’re just getting on with our job and trying to win football games.”

As the SPL discusses the situation tomorrow, MacDonald will not necessarily be waiting by the phone for news. “It depends what my wife has got me doing around the house. I think the grass is needing cut!” he said.

With seven minutes remaining on Saturday, Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas replaced Stevenson, allowing the Lithuanian a brief taste of competitive action to see out his stint with the Edinburgh club. The Lithuanian had not featured since suffering an ankle injury in February and had not been expected to play again this season. But his cameo appearance allowed him to wave farewell to the travelling support at the end of his seven years at Tynecastle.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes admits he is looking for progress in small steps rather than a sudden revolution as he moulds his own side at Pittodrie.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw meant the Dons ended the season with a five-game unbeaten run since he took over the reins from Craig Brown. However, he acknowledged there is still work to do.

He said: “I said when I came in it would be small steps. It’s not just putting a management team in place that will all of a sudden turn things round. All we can do is drive it, set a pace and set a demand. The Aberdeen support will certainly witness a team that will be giving everything they can to get the results and make things better.”