It wasn’t a classic but it had its moments. Hearts dominated the first half then Dundee revived and by the hour-mark they’d hit the woodwork four times. But Callum Paterson made the breakthrough for the Jambos with a steepling header.
The stand is coming down. On Thursday Hearts were granted planning permission for a new £12 million structure. The old one wasn’t at its most rumbustious yesterday because Dundee definitely had Hearts worried before Paterson, back from Scotland duty and a big presence as usual in maroon, steadied the nerves, substitute Bjorn Johnsen adding a second in the last minute.
It was another replacement, Robbie Muirhead, who sent over the free-kick for Paterson’s goal, although Tony Watt’s withdrawal to make way for him had angered the fans. Did Robbie Neilson feel vindicated? “We’d lost our foothold in the game and I thought Robbie gave us energy,” said the manager afterwards. “I’m the one who has to make the decisions on the touchline. If we’d ended up getting beat two-nil I’d have got the flak.”
The scoreline was hard on Dundee but it plunged them into bottom place. Boss Paul Hartley, though, was upbeat. “I thought that was a really terrific performance,” he said. “Hitting the woodwork four times means we’re doing something right. We just need to be more clinical.
“If the players keep performing like that then we’ll turn this around. I believe in the group. We didn’t have a failure out there.”
Looking for their first win since the opening day, Dundee had a chance in the opening seconds.
Paterson tried a risky pass along the back line which was short. Faissal El Bakhtaoui pounced on it but didn’t seem to have faith in his left foot and John Souttar cleared.
Hearts’ best early chance fell to Conor Sammon, another lacking the dead eye for goal at the moment, but Scott Bain saved before Paterson barrelled forward and shot just outside the keeper’s left-hand post.
Little came off for Sammon which produced a few groans. Neilson had sympathy for his big striker, saying that a lot of his work goes unseen. “At Tynecastle teams sit in. Our goals tend to come towards the end of games. Guys like Conor, Arnaud Djoum and Don Cowie do the graft to tire them out and then the subs come on the steal the glory.”
Certainly Sammon created two fine opportunities for fans’ favourite Watt, the first of which was skyed into the Roseburn Stand. Dundee hadn’t had another sniff but in the 20th minute a Tom Hateley free-kick skimmed the crossbar. Their forays forward remained rare, much to Hartley’s displeasure. He seemed to get especially agitated when Yordi Teijsse was the cause of a move breaking down, the Dutchman having flagged up his homesickness earlier in the season.
Hearts were soon back on the attack. A smart Djoum backheel set up Paterson once more. The ball reached Sammon who again found Watt. The latter was at least on target with this effort but it was blocked.
The game was starting to resemble Hearts’ last home fixture against Ross County when they dominated but couldn’t score.
County’s keeper was the hero that day and, not to be outdone, Scott Bain produced stunning stops from Djoum and Paterson.
Dundee must like the sound of the whistle to start play – or maybe the players’ ears are still stinging after an address by Hartley – because they almost scored right after the break, Hateley again unlucky when his low-rising shot biffed a post with Jack Hamilton beaten. This time, though, Dundee didn’t go back in their shell. El Bakhtaoui looked like he was in the mood now, the little French-Moroccan bouncing the ball on a shoulder and letting fly from the edge of the box. Then Kostadin Gadzhalov crashed a header off the bar. The 734 Dundee fans were loving this purple patch and then Teijsse had maybe their best opportunity, only to skew his shot wide. Hartley did not love that. But just on the hour the Dutchman almost came good, only for his right-foot strike to bang off a post.
Paterson’s goal came against the run of play. Then, with Dundee pushing for an equaliser, Johnsen grabbed his first for Hearts from a Jamie Walker cutback.