THE Foundation of Hearts provided the match sponsorship and, at half-time, their chairman Ian Murray revealed that over 7,000 people had pledged towards fan ownership.
In the 45 minutes that had preceded that, a Jamie Walker goal had provided the foundation for the home side to build on, with every man in maroon signing up to the cause.
Despite being pegged back and going down to ten men, they still rallied enough to grab the victory and took another bite out of their 15 point deficit, moving to within nine points of second bottom club St Mirren.
It was a result all about resolve and spirit and it had the Tynecastle stands rocking in a frenzied final period, which saw penalty shouts ignored, others given, a red card, a booking for diving and a touchline rammy that led to Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes and Hearts assistant manager Billy Brown
seeing out the end of the game in the stands.
That was sparked by Hearts’ late winner and the fact the Hearts coach ended up celebrating in the away technical area, much to the fury of the Aberdeen gaffer, who apologised for his reaction.
“I’m disappointed. I’ve never seen another member of staff come right into an opposition’s technical area to celebrate a goal like he did. But as soon as I’ve put my arms on him to try and push him back I’m guilty. I’ve apologised to the referee and I feel disappointed in myself for that. Like I said, I was surprised at the reaction to it [the goal] but I should have let the officials deal with it.”
The skirmish forced referee Alan Muir to intervene and both are likely to face further punishment from the SFA, but Hearts manager Gary Locke insisted there was no enduring bad blood.
“I don’t think Billy did a lot wrong to be honest, his momentum obviously took him into their technical area. We are all passionate people and there is a lot at stake. Aberdeen have started the season well, they will be up there this season no doubt about it. We are obviously fighting a different cause, trying to fight back a 15-point reduction. It just shows what it means to myself and my backroom team and what it means to Del and Doc.
“We were obviously delighted to score a goal, we think we have been a bit harshly done by and then we end up scoring a winning goal, anybody who didn’t show passion then questions would have to be asked. If the dugout was just standing there with our hands in our pockets we would all have a problem.”
It was an illustration of just how desperately both teams wanted this win. But in the end Hearts dug in deeper and were more clinical when it came to converting chances.
The opener came in the 17th minute when Jason Holt threaded a perfectly weighted pass forward for Walker to run onto and he finished with an angled drive that rendered Nicky Weaver a spectator. It lifted the home support and was a blow to the guests from up north who would have been out in front if Scott
Vernon had been more deadly in front of goal.
In the third minute he was through, but got the ball trapped under his own feet before dispatching a weak effort and seven minutes later he was profligate again, wasting another golden opportunity. But Aberdeen were still showing enough of the passing game they had impressed with in the opening games of the campaign to suggest they could come back at Hearts. They were aggrieved when calls for a handball in the area were ignored in the 30th minute, then they appealed vehemently for a penalty moments later, claiming Brad McKay
manhandled his opposite number.
But that was just a taste of the controversy still to come.
In a match that had promised to be interesting, it ended up being absolutely engrossing and in the 66th minute Aberdeen were awarded a penalty after McHattie was judged to have brought down Calvin Zola.
It saw the Hearts full-back sent off and gave Niall McGinn the opportunity to score his third penalty of the season and bring the game back to all-square.
Hearts rejigged their meagre resources, but if they were feeling disgruntled at that moment, eight minutes later they were heaving a sigh of relief when the officials decided that Peter Pawlett should be booked for diving rather than award another spot kick.
Aberdeen were the ones cursing their luck, adamant that the player had been caught, and suggesting his reputation for diving in the past had seen him unfairly treated by the referee, something Locke agreed with, admitting it probably should have been a penalty against his team.
Hearts rubbed salt in the wounds with two minutes remaining and 17 year old Jordan McGhee, who had replaced the injured Brad McKay, rose to head home the winning goal from a Callum Tapping cross.
“It was a fantastic effort from everyone, said Locke. “We go down to ten men and we are thinking that if we get a point it is a great result.
“It means everything to us. We were 15 points adrift and we are up against it, no doubt, but I think you can see the togetherness of the whole club, the players, the backroom staff, the supporters, the people who work for the club and if we keep putting in performances like that we will give ourselves a chance.”