There have been boos before but this was something more as angry Hearts fans called on manager Craig Levein to resign.
The Tynecastle side had been ahead twice and conceded that advantage both times to allow Hamilton a share of the points. Sections of the Gorgie support, who booed the team off when they drew with Ross County in their last home game, took that a step further yesterday with a singalong that left no-one in the ground in any doubt that they believe this manager has taken the team as far as he can.
“I understand that,” Levein said. “There’s a sense of frustration with the supporters and I get that. I’m not going to criticise them for voicing their opinion. But I believe I can fix this and get us up the table pretty quickly.
“The frustrating thing is that we’ve scored two goals at home and, normally, if we score two goals at home we win the match. But, and I don’t say this very often, our defending wasn’t good enough today. That’s the bit that hurts.
“Normally we’re very good at dealing with strikers, but today we didn’t do as well as we needed to. The problem with the first one is that there’s two or three people involved and each of them has made the wrong decision. The result of that is a goal – and it’s rubbish.”
Which is why the manager will cop the flak, but the players have to take greater responsibility, on the pitch and in the aftermath because this was a team that for long spells in the first half controlled possession and territory. However, once again, the players couldn’t convert that into a big enough lead to extinguish the hope in the opposition camp.
The mood in the ground was fairly toxic by the time the final whistle sounded but it had crackled with excitement in the opening 45 minutes as Sean Clare opened his scoring account for the season when cutting in from the right to send an angled drive across Owain Fon Williams and into the net.
That was in the 20th minute and when Euan Henderson was forced off injured ten minutes later the good vibes multiplied as new signing Ryo Meshino was sent on his place.
The Japanese playmaker had been expected to start, along with Steven Naismith but, worried that the long flight and media merry-go-round on Friday had sapped him of the energy to make it through the 90 minutes, he was left on the bench, while the Scotland internationalist had warned his boss that he wasn’t able to last the duration. The Scotland coach Steve Clarke was in the stand, possibly there to check out the forward but also likely to be running the rule over Craig Halkett for defensive cover in the wake of Grant Hanley’s injury.
The defender had been involved in the goal but he was part of a team that struggled to contain a Hamilton squad that rallied in the second half.
Having ridden the storm that came from an excited home support roaring on the Japanese newcomer in the hope he proves to be their saviour, Brian Rice’s players did what a Brian Rice side will always tend to do and they had a real go, hitting Hearts hard on the counter-attack and grabbing the equaliser in the 50th minute. It came from George Oakley and proved to be only his first goal of the match. The striker was tenacious and able to capitalise on Christophe Berra, Aidy White and Colin Doyle’s inability to clear the decks.
Hearts captain Berra made amends when he restored the lead nine minutes later, heading powerfully past the Hamilton keeper. But they couldn’t hold on.
By then the angst had returned to the stands and the players looked edgy. Hamilton simply grew in belief and stature and applied pressure until the backline cracked again. It was Oakley, who again did the damage, and although Hearts threw on Naismith to try to appease the locals and get their first win in 11 league games, it wasn’t enough.