Date: 18th December 2006 at 9:18am
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Aberdeen have finally taken their chance to move clear into second place in the SPL. The deserved win at Tynecastle moves the Dons two points clear of Rangers who could only draw at home to Celtic yesterday and sets the scene for an even more explosive encounter between the two sides when they meet at Pittodrie next Saturday.

The much anticipated visit of Aberdeen to Gorgie turned out to be something of an anti-climax as the fans were not treated to the footballing spectacle that the billing promised but a win at Tynecastle under any circumstances is to be enjoyed as they have historically been few and far between for the traveling fans from the northeast.

Amidst another week of strange activity at the maroon side of the Capital, Hearts` widely regarded best player was left to ponder his future on the bench as Paul Hartley served his punishment for daring to defy his paymaster. Whilst Calderwood would be delighted to not have to face the player he rates so highly from kick off, there is no doubt that he would have been aware of the boost his appearance would give the home fans and team when he was eventually unshackled.

This proved to be the case as he changed the pace of the match and flow of the game when he replaced Marius Zaliukas after 64 minutes much to the joy of all those in maroon. His probing runs and quick, sharp passing gave his team mates a new zest that had been lacking until his arrival and it looked like he may be the man to provide the inspiration to break the deadlock in a tense, hard fought match of limited goal scoring opportunities.

Aberdeen were unlucky not have been ahead at this point as in the first half as they had hit the post through Lee Miller`s lob which bounced off the outside of the post and a Russell Anderson goal bound drive which had been fortunately deflected over by an unaware Hearts defender after Bruno Aguiar`s attempted clearance had hit him.

The home side created little in the way of clear chances but came close with in the 41st minute. An Aguiar corner was knocked towards goal by Jankauskas but cleared off the line by a combination of Langfield and Clark to send the teams in goalless at the break

Hearts were a different proposition in the second half as their fans called for the introduction of the chastised Hartley and began putting dangerous balls into the Dons box at every opportunity. His arrival gave the stadium its loudest moment of the day as an expectant home support looked to the ex-Hibs man to provide the killer touch that looked like coming at this point.

It wasn`t to be however and Jimmy Calderwood must be very pleased that his side managed to keep a clean sheet in this game as well as snatching the points. A draw would not have been totally unjust but the Dons knack of scoring late goals was again the difference in this match, this time the goal coming in the 86th minute.

From a quick Jamie Smith throw in, he set up Scott Severin who unleashed a trademark 20 yard drive that Scotland number 1 Craig Gordon could only parry. The ball to spilled to substitute Steve Lovell who won`t score an easier goal as he tapped home the winner and his second of the season ,from 6 yards.

With Aberdeen facing a team full of international class foreigners, one man in particular must have been pleased to see that the away side began the game with only Scottish boys in the team. Walter Smith must be impressed with Calderwood`s outfit and their rise to second place. Dons fans must be asking the question of how much longer can it be before more reds are nationally blooded or involved in the national setup at some level?

International star and ex-Hearts player Scott Severin appreciates the difference and he believes staying Scottish is the way forward.

He said after the match, ‘We had 11 Scots starting and I think they had only two. That shows the progress we are making with home-bred players.

I think it helps to have so many Scots. Everyone is very together and working hard for each other. If somebody makes a mistake you know your team-mate is right behind you with the next tackle.’

Jimmy Calderwood was naturally delighted with his victory over the side that split the Old Firm last season but knows his job was probably made easier due to the problems Hearts are going through just now.

He said ‘This is a difficult place to come to but I didn’t think we were under sustained pressure. Overall I felt we deserved the win today,’ he said.

Hearts created some chances later on but we managed to resist them, and Steve Lovell made the difference.

If we continue this kind of form we can get where we want to be.’

Calderwood said of the non inclusion of Hartley and the departure of club captain Steven Pressley, ‘I would say they are a better team when those two are playing but it is none of my business.

I was quite happy to see Paul on the bench; he is a very good player.

I can only comment on my own club and we have been great.

‘I told my players to enjoy it while you can because you are not far from something happening and getting a kick up the backside.

‘We’ve had a few chances to grab second place but we’ve blown it so we’ll enjoy it for how long it lasts.’

‘Tynecastle is a difficult place to come to, but I thought we deserved our win. We should have shown more composure in the first half but they weren’t really hurting us. They are a big physical side but we matched them in that department today.

I thought their crowd was quiet today but our fans were magnificent. Then when Hartley came on they got a big lift. It looked like the script was written for him but we weathered it and came back at them. We came here determined and got a great result.

We have opened up a gap over Hearts and Hibs now with Kilmarnock creeping up. We’ll get our backsides kicked at some point but I hope it’s a long time away. Our target is to improve every year and if we keep doing that we’ll get to where we want to be.’

A win next week at home to Rangers would be a giant step in fulfilling the clubs ambitions.