Hearts seek perfect medicine - a win over Dundee for club still sickened by demotion injustice

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has made no attempt to play down the simmering resentment between his club and this weekend’s guests, Dundee.

In fact, he says he will remind his players of the role the Dens Park side played in the Gorgie club’s demotion to the Championship and the fact that it will be their first meeting in front of a home support, which remains justifiably aggrieved, since they were forced to ‘take their medicine’.

“We spoke about it last season and we will touch on it again. I think it’s very important that there’s that bit of an edge about the game and it’s good to have that within the game as long as it doesn’t boil over,” said Neilson.

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“The players will be motivated and ready to go. And I’m sure the 20,000 Hearts fans will have the place rocking.”

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 21: Manager Robbie Neilson during a Heart of Midlothian training session at the Oriam on October 21, 2021, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Still smarting from the email volte face which prematurely called a halt to the league when the first covid lockdown hit, and allowed fellow clubs to arbitrarily leave Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer to carry the can, the Hearts support missed out on the 6-2 and 2-1 victories over James Mcpake’s side in Gorgie last season. But with fans allowed back in the grounds, this Saturday represents a fresh opportunity for revenge.

A dish best served cold, Neilson does not see the hunger for another strong on-field admonishment being fully satisfied this weekend, regardless of the outcome, with few at Hearts ready to forgive and no-one close to forgetting.

"I think in football these things can linger on for a long long time. It's part of life, nothing goes away now.”

But while they enjoyed the successes last season as they finished ahead of Dundee in the chase for promotion, leaving the Tayside team to battle through the play-offs, there will be no overconfidence in the home dressing room prior to the latest head-to-head.

Dundee did manage one victory over Neilson’s side last term, a 3-1 result at Dens, and they travel to the capital boosted by their first win of the season, against Aberdeen, last weekend.

It was enough to move them off the foot of the table to 11th.

Hearts go into the contest on the back of a sound draw at Ibrox, which left them just one point behind league leaders Rangers. Neilson praised his players’ performance and character that day but reiterated that, ultimately, each game offers the same reward.

“It’s the same three points you are aiming for. We got a decent point at Ibrox but we need to carry on from that as it’s a massive week for us with Dundee and then two really tough away games as well [against St Johnstone and then Aberdeen].

With enmity already undisguisable, the addition of former Hibs and Celtic frontman Leigh Griffiths to Dundee’s line-up this term is further fuel to the fire, with Neilson acknowledging just how much he and his Dens Park team-mates would love to be the ones to end Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season.

“When you go so far unbeaten you are always a target for teams. Everyone we come up against now wants to be that first team to beat us. We just have to deal with that. They will have to bring their best game.”

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