Craig Levein expressed his delight as Hearts carried out his instructions to record a comfortable win at Dundee and go six points clear at the top of the Premiership.
Levein described the 3-0 win at Dens Park as one of his “less stressful” experiences on the touchline. It’s already been an eventful season for the manager, who suffered a health scare in August but is now in charge of a team who are sitting at the top of the league in late October.
He now leads his side into a Betfred Cup semi-final at BT Murrayfield where they will be roared on by as many as 30,000 fans. Nearly 2,000 made the journey to Dundee last night and hailed Levein at the end. The manager sees no reason why Hearts cannot now continue their good form over the next crucial few weeks.
He also claimed “I’ve never thought about it” when asked if he could have imagined Hearts being six points clear after ten games.
“You go into every season hopeful and you want to build momentum,” he said. “We started off with a couple of difficult situations in the Betfred Cup and that helped to pull the team together.
“We lost points, had to win a penalty shootout then had to win another group game. We’ve tapped into that feeling since then and the only time we have lost was against Rangers and we shot ourselves in the foot. But that is not something we are prone to doing. I expect us to continue in good form.”
Levein had charged his players with going out and proving their worth in tricky circumstances given Dundee’s position. Hearts were professional from the very beginning and went ahead through Oliver Bozanic’s free-kick in just the second minute. Steven Naismith put Hearts two ahead after 14 minutes before Dundee’s miserable evening was completed just after the re-start when Steven MacLean slid in number three.
Levein said he was now glad last night’s game – originally scheduled for this weekend – had been brought forward.
“When it got rescheduled it was in the week of the semi but Celtic have a game on the Thursday so I’m not going to complain about it, especially now we have won,” he said.
“I’d much rather go into the game [v Celtic] on the back of a win than draw or lose. We’ve played two matches in a short space of time before the semi-final and I’ve told the players to take confidence from the fact they are in really good form.”
“The thing that benefits us is the amount of supporters we will have in the stadium because of the change in venue and kick off time,” added Levein. “We are over 27,000 at the moment and that’s more than we take to finals given the capacity at Hampden. Hopefully we can even get to 30,000. If it had been at Hampden with the kick-off time suggested we might have had 10,000 fans and it would have felt like an away match. Hopefully we can pay the fans back with a good performance.” Dundee boss Jim McIntyre has little reason to look to the future with such relish. He has now seen his new side lose seven goals in his first two matches in charge to remain at the foot of the table. McIntyre warned it could get worse before it gets better. “We need to eradicate the self-destruction,” he said.
“There might be a bit of pain before it gets better but it will get better – that’s for sure.”