THEIR manager later described it as clutching at straws, but at that stage they were willing to try anything. The third Hearts goal had just found the net in a match where there was a very real threat of many, many more and the Dumbarton players surrounded the referee. They wanted the match abandoned as the wind and sleet battered the exposed stadium, shoogled the stand and made a lottery out of goal kicks.
The official, although probably grateful for the temporary respite of the body heat the little gathering generated, was not obliging.
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It was yet another match when Hearts had enough chances to have racked up a goals tally in double figures in an utterly convincing revenge mission against the only team other than Hibs to have taken any points off them so far this season.
Bizarrely, that wouldn’t have pleased all of the travelling support, who having seen their side rattle in their five goals stood and cheered and applauded as the home side made it 5-1, the scoreline gifting them another opportunity to goad the Dumbarton manager and former Hibs player Ian Murray. After last term’s turmoil, this is a season that just keeps giving for Hearts.
What the new signing Genero Zeefuik made of the response to the loss of a goal or the subsequent celebrations that greeted his missed penalty a couple of minutes later, who knows, but the chances are it won’t take long for someone to explain the significance of the scoreline and the reason the travelling support were quite happy to hang on to it for the remainder of the match.
The game started well for the league leaders, with an opening goal in the eighth minute when Sam Nicholson, who has recaptured the effervescent form of earlier in the campaign, skelped a long range effort against the wind past Danny Rogers in the Dumbarton goal.
Hearts were dangerous down the flanks, with Jamie Walker – who is interesting Real Betis – and Adam Eckersley and Callum Paterson all getting forward well to link up with James Keatings and new signing Zeefuik.
“Jamie is a fantastic player and I thought he and Sam were the stand out for us,” said Hearts coach Robbie Neilson. “Technically he is different class but there has been no approach from any clubs yet. But he is a player who could go to the next level.”
Zeefuik looks like he could prove a very useful acquisition, scoring twice and holding the ball up well. A big lad, who prompted chants of “You’re just a good Christian Nade”, he has a decent touch and a sound awareness of the surrounding play.
Despite all that, the hosts were unlucky not to get back on level terms when Andy Graham’s header was deflected just wide of the post, then Scott Agnew’s corner landed on the bar. Dumbarton’s inability to capitalise on those chances was punished when Hearts extended their lead in the 26th minute. Zeefuik played a well-weighted ball for Walker to latch on to and score.
It was an open game, which was more entertaining than anyone might have expected given the conditions.
“We had chances in the first half when we had the wind behind us,” said Murray, “but when it went to 2-0 before half time, when we were going out against the wind, we knew it was going to be a hard ask for us. You have to be ruthless against these teams, if not it will come back and bite you in the arse.”
They did more than that. Hearts sank their teeth in and ripped the seat out of Dumbarton’s pants, netting the third goal six minutes into the second half when Walker played in Zeefuik. Walker was again the provider when Nicholson burst through at pace in the 58th minute to lash home and when he sent another delivery across the face of goal for Zeefuik to slide in and make it five just after the hour mark.
When he was felled in the box a few minutes later, Walker gifted the new arrival the chance to complete his hat-trick, but with Dumbarton having pegged one back in the 62nd minute, courtesy of Chris Kane, the fans were far from perturbed when both his initial effort and rebound were blocked.
Dumbarton: Rogers, Van Zanten, Graham, Mair, Linton, Gilhaney, Agnew, Turner, Campbell (Megginson 55), Nish (Taggart 70), Kane (McCallum 89). Subs not used: Ewings, Fleming, Whitfield.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson, Eckersley, Walker, Buaben (Pallardo 74), Gomis (King 79), Zeefuik (Holt 65). Subs not used: Hamilton, Oliver, McKay, McGhee.
Referee: John Beaton. Attendance: 1,537
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