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Kilmarnock 1 Hearts 1: Off-park talk steals show

It was not quite the Rumble in the Jungle; more the Rammy at Rugby Park.

The verbal sparring between the two managers in the days leading up to this bout certainly injected proceedings with a fair old dose of needle.

Paulo Sergio, the cheesed off Hearts manager, had labelled his Kilmarnock counterpart Kenny Shiels 'a clown' in response to the Northern Irishman suggesting that if the Portuguese had 'principles' he should resign after being forced by Tyncastle owner Vladimir Romanov to drop first-choice keeper Marian Kello.

The verbal jousting continued on the radio prior to kick-off with Shiels, a self-confessed wind-up merchant, bracketing Sergio in with the Victor Meldrews of this world.

Given the atmosphere, it was hardly surprising Shiels' offer of a pre-match handshake was rejected by Sergio and greeted with a glower that could've melted a tank. With Luis Suarez also rebuffing Patrice Evra's similar gesture in the feisty Liverpool versus Manchester United encounter down south, Sky have probably christened it all Super Snubday.

At the end of an ill-tempered battle, it was Suso Santana, the Hearts substitute, who had the final say amid the war of words when his injury-time header salvaged a point for the visitors. Kilmarnock, who played the last 35 minutes with 10 men, looked like they would plunder the spoils when Paul Heffernan bundled the ball over the line late on but, with Hearts also reduced in numbers for the closing 10 minutes, the hosts could not hold on. The final whistle was greeted with a frenzy of finger pointing, verbals and a lack of handshakes. Dean Shiels, the manager's son, did exchange pleasantries with Sergio but even that ended in a niggle.

"I shook Dean's hand, he gave his hand to me too but he said a thing and I took my hand off," said Sergio.

After all the talk, Shiels senior made a hasty exit from the stadium to attend a christening and sent in Jimmy Nicholl, his assistant, to act as diplomat.

"I didn't expect Paulo to shake the manager's hand," he said. "I once refused to shake another manager's hand because of things he was saying in the dug-out. If Kenny's got principles then Paulo's got principles. Kenny said what he said because that's how he feels. Paulo didn't shake the manager's hand because that's how he feels. It doesn't matter."

Sergio, meanwhile, was far less genial. "When he (Shiels) tried for the second time to shake my hand it was just to provoke me and get a reaction from the crowd," he added. "It's his style."

As for the match, the simmering tensions of the week boiled over in the first minute when Kilmarnock's Dieter Van Tornhout went wildly clattering into Jamie Hamill in front of the dug-out. That would have dire consequences for Van Tornhout 10 minutes into the second half when he again thundered into Hamill and was sent off in only his third game since last month arriving in Ayrshire.

The Belgian should have made more of an impact on the match 50 minutes earlier when, completely unmarked, he headed James Fowler's cross tamely wide before Mohamadou Sissoko's looping header bounced off the crossbar shortly after.

Despite that early flurry of activity, it all became rather uneventful but, with Van Tornhout departing, the second period proved far more boisterous. On 79 minutes, Michael Nelson's header from Shiels' corner was blocked by Jamie MacDonald but Heffernan swooped. Hamill then saw red barely a minute later as Hearts' day took a turn for the worse. Yet there was a final twist as Santana stole in at the back post to head in the equaliser and provide another talking point.

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