In the first of our four takeaways from the Scottish football weekend, Craig Fowler looks at how Hearts’ performance dropped after Billy King’s injury
There was a real before and after effect with regards to Billy King’s substitution after the young winger was forced from the action in Hearts’ 1-1 draw with Dundee.
Before that point Hearts were a goal up and in complete control of the match. The team appeared to be getting over the absence of Juanma by using Arnaud Djoum in the No.10 role supporting Osman Sow. The two players were linking together superbly.
Sow made up for his lack of aerial prowess by getting his body into the right positions to control high balls either with his feet or chest. Djoum was the frequent recipient and the Belgian would link well with King and Sam Nicholson on the wings as both wide men would look to cut inside, which has been a feature of Hearts’ play so far this season.
With Prince Buaben providing support alongside the covering Miguel Pallardo, and Callum Paterson and Juwon Oshaniwa offering an out-ball from deep, Hearts were regularly swarming around the visitors’ half. Four players combined superbly for the opening goal which Paterson swung onto the head of Djoum, who hadn’t been tracked from deep.
Then King went off and everything unravelled. Instead of going with a like-for-like swap with Danny Swanson, Robbie Neilson instead brought on Morgaro Gomis and changed up the line-up, with Buaben taking over on the right wing.
Neilson would have been looking to keep the team solid, thinking the full-backs continually bombing forward would pick up some of the attacking slack and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. Instead Hearts rarely threatened the Dundee goal for the rest of the match.
The visitors themselves didn’t look like scoring for the most part, but with Rory Loy and Greg Stewart on the field, both players easily capable of netting into double figures across the course of a season, it doesn’t take much for a goal to come.
The equaliser occurred when Hearts were still in transition after making the second sub, with Gavin Reilly coming on for Buaben and the switching to a 4-4-2. It was another move that failed to give the hosts an attacking impetus, as Dundee grew into the game in the centre of the park as their 4-4-2 formation was no longer outnumbered in the key area.
The good news for Hearts is that this is nothing more than a blip. Neilson has always been brave with tactical choices, and even though he seemed to get it wrong on this occasion, his tinkering has won many a point already this season.
Juanma will be back for the trip to Motherwell and the away side will be deserved favourites to get back to winning ways and extend their unbeaten run.