DUNDEE UNITED must wish Scott Robertson could score more regularly. He has only netted six times for the Tannadice team but they have all been important. After all, the side have never lost a match in which he has found the net. Yesterday’s effort was his first goal since December 2008 but it was enough to separate the sides and give United their second win of the season over Hearts.
The goal came in the 24th minute and although it was against the run of play, it was a belter. With United seizing possession in the middle of the park, Robertson picked out Jon Daly, who provided the outlet down the right flank, and by the time he whipped in his cross, the midfielder had burst forward, timing his run perfectly to launch himself through the air and bullet his diving header into the back of Marian Kello’s net.
Given Hearts’ inability to win after going a goal down thus far this season, it signalled another disappointing afternoon on the road for the Hearts contingent, with St Mirren’s victory over Dunfermline allowing them to leapfrog the capital club, who ended the day in sixth place.
Once again the Hearts players went into a tough SPL battle without their wages in the bank. But if the payments that offer them their professional status were missing, no one could justly accuse them of a lack of professionalism. The effort was there; it was the final ball and the cutting edge that were missing.
The club had also set the scene for the match with an article on the official website confirming that several players are up for sale. Perhaps that’s where the effort is coming from – they are all looking to impress onlookers in the hope of finding a buyer who can take them away from all the current uncertainty.
But it’s not just the Hearts players who are finding times trying. If the team had run out of ideas by the end, certain fans had run out of patience, one throwing his scarf on to the pitch as he exited in disgust at the club’s fourth match on the bounce without a win or a goal.
Hearts were within their rights to question their luck as they trudged off at half-time a goal behind. Arguably the better team in the first half, with certainly the more notable chances on goal, they were still chasing the game, their poor away record again haunting them. They have won just once away from Tynecastle all season, while goals have also been hard to come by in recent times.
Manager Paulo Sergio, banished from the touchline for five matches and watching from the stand, had tried mixing up the formula. With Ian Black also suspended, he had moved Ryan Stevenson back into midfield and given John Sutton his first start since 13 August. Despite scoring twice that day, it had been his only start under Sergio. But he is a player who has proved his SPL credentials. Eleven goals in the league and a further six in the cup had highlighted him as one of the top marksmen in Scotland last season but even he couldn’t end the current goal drought. He had a half chance in the second half but couldn’t make the most of it.
The man most likely in the opening exchanges was his team-mate David Templeton. Up against former Gorgie fullback Robbie Neilson, who was making his debut for United, he made the most of the required period of adjustment and ran at the defence, dribbling inside and out to find a sneak at goal or a colleague in space. But while the visitors enjoyed a lot of possession, Hearts just couldn’t find an opening. That was in part down to their own failings in that department but also a consequence of an organised and determined United display.
After an effort of his own in the second minute was blocked, Templeton later played the ball in and although it was nicked through to Rudi Skacel, the Czech international had been flagged offside before his shot found the net. But Hearts were still probing. Sutton and Skacel had weak efforts, Ryan McGowan’s cross/shot had to be tipped away. But through it all United stayed resolute and tried to find respite on the break. It wasn’t so long ago that it was the Tannadice manager Peter Houston who was under pressure and United’s results that were under scrutiny but they seem to have turned a corner and now sit just two points behind Hearts and the top six. Yesterday they worked hard for their rewards. Full of industry and belief, the goal from Robertson proved enough to ensure that the problems are someone else’s these days.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Scott Robertson (Dundee United)
Goal and a midfield display which epitomised his team’s performance.
The overdue but impressive contribution by Robertson to United’s goal tally.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 6,925