Individuality helps Hearts create spine

PERHAPS the most important result of Hearts' four-game winning streak is that manager Csaba Laszlo can now identify a definite spine within his team.

Regulars such as Christophe Berra, Lee Wallace, Bruno Aguiar, Andy Driver and even Christian Nade bring both stability and familiarity. Robbie Neilson, although not long returned from injury, is proving himself just as reliable.

Saturday saw two of the aformentioned sextet score very different but equally scintillating goals to dispense with Falkirk. With the rest also shining in a performance laced with both skill and desire, Laszlo is entitled to feel he has assembled a solid foundation for the remainder of the campaign.

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Steve Lovell's opening goal for Falkirk arrived against the run of play but, whereas previous Hearts teams might have capitulated faced with the same situation, this one refused. Sleeves were promptly rolled up and within two minutes Aguiar had restored parity with an other exquisite free-kick. Driver's individual strike in the second half opened a three-point gap between the Tynecastle club in third and Dundee United in fourth.

Individuality is something Laszlo has sought to encourage since his appointment as Hearts manager in July. First, he maintains a teamwork ethic is vital to ensure all the donkey work gets done. Recent results would indicate his thesis is pretty sound.

"It's the most important thing to reach your team as a coach," he said. "You can talk and talk and talk and it goes in (one ear] and out (the other]. This time it went in and stayed, this is important.

"We can talk about the individual players. Christian Nade had some very good moments in the game. What Andy Driver did today was a result of hard work from the summer until now to teach him 'you can go alone, you can have a one-against-one situation and you must have the finish'. Bruno Aguiar spends a lot of time after training shooting free-kicks. Now he has the response for his hard work for the second time.

"If you can bring your quality for the team, you can be a star later. If you don't bring your quality for the team you can go round in circles. Driver and Bruno brought this quality and this is what I want. If the individuals don't think about the team, they will always be a talent but never a star. This is very complex and I am very complex, sometimes crazy, but now I am happy about winning the fourth game in a row.

"I have a soul and a heart and I know 100 per cent this is a good feeling, but I am not satisfied. I am so unsatisfied, especially with the first half. But the team gave me the answer." If Aguiar's strike took the breath away, Driver's caused palpitations.

He had Arnau Riera to thank for an initial misplaced pass but wasted little time in skipping past Chris Mitchell, Riera and then Lee Bullen before rounding Scott Flinders, the Falkirk goalkeeper, to score.

On the week of his 21st birthday it was the most welcome of presents, although Laszlo's post-match description was perhaps fuelled more by adrenalin than anything else.

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"A lot of people told me (after the game] this was like Maradona, but I told Driver he is a different guy," said the manager. "Maradona doesn't speak English and you must forget that and have your individuality.

"I must take time to give a big compliment to the team. Immediately after the Falkirk goal was the reaction, a fantastic free-kick from Bruno. In the central midfield was not what I wish, we did not have the second balls and we were not aggressive. You can only be aggressive if you stay closer.

"We used the break to clear the brains of the players a little bit. Then came the quality and the answer from the players. We did not have a new tactical shape, we spoke very clearly about what we did before. In the second half I was very happy about the players, they gave me the answer. The answer was 'we can be better' and we were better."

Driver was, as expected, bashful over his manager's comments. "I'm a bit embarrassed about that," he said. "There's a big difference in the goals."

Laszlo had cautioned his players before the match against over-indulging their three previous victories against St Mirren, Hamilton and Inverness. "Four wins is the first thing I wanted for my team before the game," he said. "A young team, if they win three games, are very satisfied. On Friday I was asked about the possibility of winning a fourth game and I said this was the wrong way to think. We had to forget this and think like this was our first game. We had to play football to bring us forward.

"In the first half the players made the same mistake and we gave our opponents the opportunity for counter situations. Especially Zaliukas, who stood behind his opponents badly."

Falkirk gave a spirited account of themselves but their most threatening period did not arrive until the closing minutes.

A dipping 35-yard shot by Chris Mitchell was tipped for a corner by Janos Balogh before Aguiar nodded Bullen's header off the goal line. There was also an injury-time moment of consternation when substitute Mark Stewart headed a Mitchell cross only fractions of an inch off target.

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"Falkirk did not go back to play on the counter-attack," said Laszlo. "In the last minute they had the chance, we had the luck. But I am a Christian and I believe in God and I think God gave me something back after what he took in the last game against Falkirk. We lost 2-1 and I told everybody 'believe in God, he can help sometimes'."

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