Ground #: 16 (2nd visit)
Ground: Fir Park (normally used by Motherwell FC)
Competition: Scottish League Cup Semi-Final
Kick Off: 7:45pm
St Mirren 1
After the painful experience of the previous Saturday with Hearts’ away defeat at St Johnstone, a lot of Jambos went into this game feeling that it was Jim Jefferies PROPER first game in charge after he had been with his new side for 3 days to look over what they needed. A surprising deadline day transfer was also made with “Ayr United’s best player” in Ryan Stevenson joining the club, however without trying to cast doubt on the poor lads skills, Ayr United are currently 2nd bottom in Division 1, with only 12 points from 18 games played. So while I hope he’s the new Messi, Maradona, etc he may well be the next Kęstutis Ivaškevičius though. We shall wait and see. After dispatching of Dunfermline Athletic in Round 4 and a stunning 1-0 win at Celtic Park in the Quarter Final, Hearts had managed to get to the League Cup Semi for the 2nd season in 3, and this time looked to have a far easier game than their last appearance when Rangers easily beat them 2-0. The neutral ground of Fir Park and its awful pitch was chosen and despite after my last visit to this ground I promised it would be my last, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket for this game in the normal away end – the South Stand.
Motherwell is a large town in North Lanarkshire famous for its old steel works that even earnt the town the nickname, “Steelopolis” as its skyline was dominated by the old steel works in the toon and some of it is still in operation today. Apart from that, like most Scottish working towns there isn’t much else to talk about in terms of highlights and attractions. To put it bluntly, Motherwell is a shit-hole. And I’ve only ever seen it at night (thankfully). Despite being such a dump, parking is normally fine around the ground, especially as both my visits now have been midweek evening kickoffs. However only getting onto the M6 at Lancaster at 5:30 and with KO at 7:45, it looked like I would miss the majority of the 1st half with the journey according to Google Maps taking 2h 39mins. Therefore averaging around the 80-90mph mark, I ripped into the M6 and then M74 and arrived and parked up at Motherwell amazingly at 7:35. A mad dash to the ground, firstly taking some (piss poor) pictures, its dark is my excuse! Fir Park is home of Motherwell FC and as the Steelmen weren’t involved in this game at all, I won’t mention them – the ground however is not one of my favourites as its 4 very different stands cobbled together in a laughably awful looking ground with one of the worst pitches ever seen. Hearts fans who bought the £18 tickets were housed in the South Stand – the normal away end which is the only 2 tiered stand in the ground and dominates the rest of Fir Park. The other 3 stands which are different sizes and shapes (the Main Stand doesn’t even fill the length of the pitch ffs) were taken up by St Mirren fans I presume as I couldn’t actually see where the £22 Hearts tickets actually were. It was also clear that Hearts had managed to fill nearly, if not all of their 7000 allocation, where St Mirren barely took 2000-3000. So backed by a large travelling support, Hearts had the backing and hopefully the desire to go on and qualify for the national cup final.
I missed the KO, but so did the majority of Hearts fans judging by the numbers trying to get into the ground when I arrived, I also sadly missed the minutes silence for Hearts legend Bobby Kirk who played for the Jambos between 1955-62. I finally got in 5 minutes after KO and found my seat right at the back of the lower tier right in front of the police watch post which had a fairly decent view of the pitch unlike my last visit here when only the top tier was open and I couldn’t actually see the goal closest to it. If I thought the 1st 45 minutes at St Johnstone were awful on the Saturday, then this was so much worse. I actually cannot think of any chances of note for either side except for the occasional corners won or long range efforts that should barely get a mention. The main event for Hearts in the 1st half was the loss of key defender Izmael Bouzid to a hamstring tear and so potential Master of Disaster Dawid Kucharski came on to replace him. Apart from that, nothing, nip, nada. I didn’t even have The 66 POW blogger Rob with me tonight as he and his Hibee supporting friend ( ;) ) were in the top tier so it was the worst 45 minutes of football I had witnessed for quite some time.
I left just before half-time (not the game – although in hindsight that would have been a great choice) to get a pie (lesson learned from McDiarmid Park!), only for 5 minutes into the half-time break a distraught fat Scotsman yelled out, “THERE’S NAE PIES!?” – cue mass hysteria as the Fir Park catering staff quickly learnt that denying Scots people something deep fried and/or crispy when they are hungry was a bad idea. Not wanting to wait 20 minutes for a packet of crisps I decided to quickly pop up and see Rob Waite to discuss how bad that half of football had been and general other chat. You know how bad a game is when you are sat there thinking, “I may struggle to write a blog report on this…”. Hearts came out extremely early for the start of the 2nd half which the Jambos responded with by a rousing rendition of the “Hearts song” to try and get the players going – a good moment as 6000 odd belted this out.
The effect this had on the players was clearly evident when the 2nd half kicked off, none. As St Mirren came out and attacked Hearts while we again struggled to put passes together showing no passion whatsoever. The opening goal was coming and on 51 minutes (exactly the same time that Kenny Deuchar had scored against us in the previous game), Andy Driver lost the ball on the left wing and he and left-back Lee Wallace showed no desire to retrieve the ball back as Jack Ross found Billy Mehmet who hit a first time shot brilliantly up and over Marian Kello in the Hearts goal to give the Buddies the lead. A quite superb finish especially considering the ball had rolled to him on the awful pitch. It was clear to me that as our strike force is so poor and a 16 year old virgin could penetrate better than our woeful strikers that it looked like a defeat was on the cards already and St Mirren should have made that safe 5 minutes later when Jack Ross ran clean through and only a great Kello save stopped it being 0-2. Had that gone in, I would have 100% left there and then as I had a job assessment centre the next day and could have done without the long wait in traffic that I would face at the end of the game. Hearts did exert some pressure for their suffering fans as Suso came on and caused some problems for the St Mirren defence but the best chance fell to Christian Nade who smashed a low cross that Driver put in wide despite it looking easier to get the ball on target. As 3 minutes of injury time were called, I decided to leave early for the 2nd time at Fir Park as St Mirren ran out deserved winners to qualify for the League Cup Final, where they will play Rangers. I had a comforting cheeseburger from a van outside and thought about what could have been……
To make the evening even more depressing I accidentally parked my car on the same street as the St Mirren supporters coaches who clearly noticed my maroon scarf and celebrated rather well around me. I was back in Edinburgh by midnight as post-mortem on the horrific performance began. While I would have been sad had we lost but put up a performance that we could have been proud in, then I would have accepted that rather than the awful, soulless, passionless shite that I had to watch and pay £18 for the ‘privilege’ to do so. You know your team is in dire straights when your most creative attacking player is 6ft odd Marius Zaliukas. A centre-back. There are too many players who don’t give a toss about the club and it was clear to see tonight. Michael Stewart, club captain and Ian Black both claim to be “Jambos” and yet showed little passion on the night as the St Mirren midfield easily overran us. Upfront, we are also useless and its clear that while the youngsters (Smith, Robinson, Glen) have potential, they need someone upfront with them with experience to help them – Nade isn’t that man. I could go on about how bad we are at the moment as I’ve decided to not go watch us for a while, mainly for money and I would rather not pay double figures for a 90 minute depressant. I’ll write some thoughts on it during the week as its 2 weeks before I go to another game – one I might enjoy being a neutral at it.
Rob Waite’s thoughts on this game (and they are as negative as mine) can be found at: http://the66pow.blogspot.com/2010/02/heart-of-midlothian-v-st-mirren-cis-cup.html
- Match: 4/10 (awful for a semi-final)
- Value for money: 5/10 (£18 for a semi-final is ok I suppose)
- Ground: 4/10 (I don’t like Fir Park)
- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise from Hearts fans, St Mirren responded in 2nd half)
- Food: N/A (ran out of pies!)
- Programme: 8/10 (good SFL effort)
- Referee: Charlie Richmond – 4/10 (fussy and inconsistent)