A FIRST-HALF double from Ryan Stevenson ensured that the headlines were not all about Rudi Skacel’s return to Tynecastle.
Hearts 2 - 1 Dundee United
Scorers: Hearts - Stevenson 15, 31 (pen); Dundee United - Watson 57
Referee: Craig Thomson
The former Hearts hero was back at his old stomping ground for the first time since joining Dundee United but left empty-handed.
The weather conditions were atrocious for both sides, the wind whipping around Tynecastle and bringing sporadic rain with it.
From the off, Gordon Smith looked as though he could cause United problems running at both Gavin Gunning and Brian McLean and, on occasion, racing down the right channel too.
There were shouts for a penalty kick from Hearts fans with 14 minutes gone after a challenge by former Tynie hero Skacel on Ryan Stevenson but referee Carig Thpomson ignored the roars from the stands.
Hearts opened the scoring just seconds later though when John Sutton persevered against McLean in front of goal and, although he couldn’t get a shot in himself, he managed to deflect the ball into the path of Ryan Stevenson who slotted the ball home.
It was the Hearts winger’s second goal in just over a fortnight but United came close to cancelling it out within the space of just a couple of minutes when Brian McLean’s effort came back off the post from just a couple of yards out.
Hearts could have doubled their advantage in 22 minutes when a Dundee United free-kick was cleared and found its way to Smith.
The youngster showed good vision, releasing Andrew Driver to his left and the winger raced into the area, only to see his angled drive blocked.
United sent a few shivers down Hearts’ spines when Barry Douglas’ dipping effort was just inches away from beating MacDonald at his par corner.
Hearts were awarded a pnealty kick just before the half hour when Willo Flood tugged the arm of Dylan McGowan inside the box.
Up stepped Stevenson and he had no problems in slotting home yet again, beating Cierzniak at his right-hand side.
There were no changes at the break but in 56 minutes United had pulled one back, Skacel missing the initial effort but Keith Watson lashing the ball into the net from an angle.
The Jambos could have made life easier on themselves when Kacin McHattie’s ball in from the left was met by the foot of Andy Webster but the defender’s effort was right down the throat of Cierzniak.
They certainly should have made sure of the points five minutes later when Paterson laid it on aplate for Andrew Driver but he couldn’t connect for a diving header that would almost certainly have brought a goal.
Paterson was next. He had only been on the park for a matter of minutes and his swerving left foot shot was hit was such power that it knocked the wind from Cierzniak when he blocked it.
Lacny was booked with a few minutes remaining for a crude challenge on sub Novikovas.
In stoppage time Jonny Russell could have snatched a point for United, only to send his shot high over MacDonald’s bar.
Hearts: MacDonald, McGiwan, Barr, Webster, Stevenson, Sutton, Driver (Novikovas 82), Smith (Paterson 75), D McGowan (Taouil 72), Zaliukas, McHattie. Unused subs: Enckelman, Robinson, Holt, Carrick.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Douglas, McLean, Gunning, Flood, Russell, Rankin, Daly, Watson, Armstrong (Dow 85), Skacel (Lacny 77). Unused subs: Banks, Ryan, Millar, Gardyne, Petrie.