Anxious Arnaud Djoum tries to focus on football

HEARTS’ Arnaud Djoum was disappointed not to get the victory needed to close the gap on Celtic at the top of the Premiership on Saturday but it isn’t the biggest worry on his mind.

Arnaud Djoum celebrates after heading past Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain to open the scoring for Hearts. Picture: SNS
Arnaud Djoum celebrates after heading past Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain to open the scoring for Hearts. Picture: SNS

With his family back home in Brussels, news of the city-wide lockdown and search for terror suspects has unsettled the 26-year-old, who wants to see the situation resolved so he can focus fully on his football.

“It is a hard time because I have family in Belgium, in Brussels. My parents are not living far away from these people and for me it is a very hard time now.

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“I am always thinking about them. You never know what can happen.

“My family are also scared. It is really difficult to concentrate. You think about your family. They are everything to you and these are such bad times now. I hope that soon it will be better.”

But for 90 minutes he tried to keep his mind on the game, displaying the quality which has already enticed the club to try to extend his contract, just a few games into his short-term deal.

It was a day when the Edinburgh team failed to capitalise on Celtic’s slip-up, but yesterday they will have been relieved to see Aberdeen were unable to make them pay for their own and get the win needed to leapfrog them into second place in the Premiership.

A goal up after 24 minutes and in control of the match, with Paul Hartley’s men on the back foot, in the 34th minute they lost Billy King to injury. They chose not to replace him like for like, and soon after they surrendered the momentum.

The Dens Park side were entitled to feel pleased with themselves. They had not been cowed by their hosts’ superior start and having weathered the squall, they came out for the second half and whipped up a storm of their own, hitting back to level the scoreline and pile on the kind of pressure which might have delivered them the victory in the end.

The opener had been a demonstration of Hearts’ standing at that time. They showed patience as they dictated the ebb and flow of the tempo and the passing, the movement and the teamwork were all evident in the build-up to a goal that displayed an assurance and maturity, ignoring as they did the grumblings from impatient fans who wanted the ball played forward quickly.

Instead they chose to bide their time, keeping possession and drawing Dundee in before releasing Callum Paterson into space down the flank, where the full-back drove in a perfect cross for the impressive Djoum to head downwards into Scott Bain’s net.

It was the Belgian’s third goal in six appearances for the Gorgie club and illustrated why his manager Robbie Neilson wants to get him signed up on a longer-term contract.

“I am happy to score goals and here at Tynecastle it is a very good feeling when you score in front of your own fans but the draw wasn’t, for me, good enough,” said Djoum. “My agent is speaking with the club and I think we can find a solution so I can stay here longer. I think you can see that I enjoy it here. It is a really good team and coach as well and that is why I feel great here and why I hope we can find a good way for me to stay. I am concentrating on Hearts and winning as many games as possible and doing well in the league.”

They stuttered in that mission on Saturday as Dundee came back at them and scored the equaliser they were more than entitled to at that time. That was with 23 minutes remaining and came from a Greg Stewart through ball and was finished with some aplomb by Rory Loy. Both sides sought the winner in the time remaining but had to settle for a point. Hartley was happy with that. His Hearts counterpart wasn’t. Neilson knows these are the games in which they have to find a way to win if they want to hang on to ­second place.