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Dundee 1 - 0 Hearts: Second win over Tynecastle men gives SPL stragglers hope

Dundees Matt Lockwood, centre, celebrates after his match-winning free-kick. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

Dundees Matt Lockwood, centre, celebrates after his match-winning free-kick. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

  • by Moira Gordon at Dens Park
 

TWO head-to-heads between this pair, two Dundee victories and, while it could be argued that the first was fortunate, the second was thoroughly merited.

Dundee: Lockwood 22

Referee: S McLean

Attendance: 5,344

Hearts were the only team Dundee had managed to get the better of since their elevation to the Scottish Premier League and, given how aggrieved the capital side felt about that result, claiming the visitors staged a snatch and grab act when they met in September, the betting was on there being no repeat. But there are few things more unpredictable than top-flight results this term.

Having battered Dundee the last time they met without finding a way past Rab Douglas in goal, Hearts opted to switch the formation this time, putting both John Sutton and Calum Paterson up front. But, even when they pushed captain Marius Zaliukas forward late on, effectively making it a five-man front line, the scoring woes which look set to dog them this season remained.

“We never really got going,” said their manager, John McGlynn. “We huffed and puffed and might have sneaked a draw but we didn’t do enough to win it. We had a couple of chances there towards the end but never got to the level of performance we have been achieving.”

Part of that could be attributed to their arduous midweek League Cup clash with Dundee’s city neighbours when they were reduced to ten men and had to go through extra time and a penalty shoot-out before securing a place in the semi-finals.

Certainly, a few players seemed to be lacking some zip but McGlynn wasn’t looking to give his players an out. “It might have something to do with it but I don’t want to make excuses. It is the second game we have given Dundee all the encouragement they needed by starting a bit slack and giving them a goal and then they had more to fight for,” he said. “They defended the lead and got their heads in front of the ball and did that very well. Marius had a great header which he should have scored from and another across the face of the goal, so there were bits and pieces.”

But they didn’t do enough to deny Dundee the points they earned through greater graft and grit as well as some better attacking play. In fact, if Hearts can bemoan a couple of missed opportunities, then it was nothing compared to the chances Dundee had to seal the result.

The most notable efforts for Hearts came from an Arvydas Novikovas free-kick in the first half and then a bright run by Gordon Smith, who found the byeline in the 80th minute and flashed a low ball across goal which fellow second-half substitute Jamie Walker was inches shy of latching onto. In the away side’s liveliest spell of the match, Zaliukas should also have done better with his header but it would have been a cruel blow if he had found the net.

Dundee deserved all three points and they should have secured them long before Hearts final flurry gave cause for a few palpitations. The home side opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after Zaliukas gave away a free-kick just outside the box. Jamie MacDonald in goal was unable to do anything to halt the voyage of Matt Lockwood’s clinical set piece, which the full-back curled inside the post to the keeper’s right.

Having gained that advantage, Colin Nish will be kicking himself for not helping his team build on it. In the 42nd minute he broke through, and, one on one with MacDonald, tried to round him. It was enough of a delay to allow Zaliukas to get back and Nish fired the ball against him with the goal yawning.

The first half had been dogged, with both teams trying to exert themselves physically and fouls interrupting play but the second half offered more fluid play, with Dundee growing in self-belief and passing well, albeit without the tempo which would have been really deadly.

Hearts sent on Andy Driver, as well as Smith and Walker, in the hope of sparking something up front but it was Dundee’s substitute John Baird who came the closest to a goal. On the pitch just three minutes, the striker found himself in a great position but hit the side-netting. He had another effort 60 seconds later but again should have done better with his finish. It illustrated Dundee’s weakness. For all the effort and a wonderful team ethic, it is the lack of composure or suspect decision-making at key moments which undermines them.

But this win prevented them becoming even more detached at the foot of the table, and will bolster their self-confidence after a troubled start to the league campaign.

“It was a great team performance… the grit and determination,” said their manager, Barry Smith. “It’s only one game but, hopefully, we can build on a performance where we defended well and created chances. Hopefully, the players can now play with more confidence knowing that the hard work they have put in now gives them every chance.”

MAN OF THE MATCH

Declan Gallagher (Dundee)

Superb at the centre of a resolute defence.

TALKING POINT

Dundee have only won twice in the SPL, both times against Hearts.

 

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