Hearts 2 - 0 Dundee: Levein’s men enjoy home comforts again

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Maybe there is something restorative about Tynecastle for Hearts after all. No-one could contend that they were entirely convincing as goals in either half from Esmael Goncalves and Christophe Berra brought them a second win inside a week at the home to which they have only recently returned.

However, with three straight games in Gorgie across the past fortnight having yielded seven points, manager Craig Levein can point to his side now being on their best run for a trio of encounters across this fraught campaign.

Esmael Goncalves slots the ball past Dundee keeper Elliot Parish to open the scoring for Hearts. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

Esmael Goncalves slots the ball past Dundee keeper Elliot Parish to open the scoring for Hearts. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

The new experience of rain pelting down on the recently opened shiny-ish, sort-of-kitted-out-inside, main stand made for an unpleasant one for those ensconced in the first eight rows. With the press box one of those rows, there was angst among some of the 
journalists that laptops could not be accessorised with 
wipers.

For the home side, it was all about wiping away any vestiges of doubt that have stalked them in recent times.

Levein was asked on radio pre-match if he had detected a bounce from his players following the grimly-earned 1-0 win over Motherwell on Saturday that ended a six-game run without a victory. There hadn’t been much time to do any bouncing, the Tynecastle manager offered. Yet, there certainly was a sprightliness to his team in the early stages.

Injury might have deprived Hearts of Jamie Walker, while illness meant only a place on the bench for weekend goalscorer Kyle Lafferty – Levein concerned that the big Northern Ireland striker might not have “much left in the tank” having recently been laid low with a virus. The need to reshape the side, though, made for an unexpected opportunity for 16-year-old attacking midfielder Anthony McDonald. The youngster hadn’t even managed a substitute appearance ahead of last night. Indeed, in that laconic way of his, Levein admitted that although he was undoubtedly a highly-rated talent, playing him last night might have been a case of his opportunity coming too early.

As it transpired, such fears proved unfounded. McDonald, playing with his head up, across the first period embraced the stage that 
Levein had hoped he could handle.

Perhaps he was fortunate that in Dundee, he faced 
opponents that seemed to reduce themselves to a reactive role too often in the initial stages.

Having enjoyed a reversal of fortunes of late with two wins and a draw in their previous four games – Friday night’s 1-0 defeat at home to Aberdeen was unfortunate – they did not impose themselves on the opening half. McDonald did that, and in consequence was pivotal to the key moment in the period that brought Hearts the lead on the half-hour mark.

The teenager showed real conviction to drive through the middle and hold off his marker before he nudged a deft through ball to Goncalves. The Portuguese forward did the rest, flicking the ball past Dundee keeper Elliot Parish from eight yards, for a sixth goal this season.

In the immediate aftermath, the 16-year-old contingent within the Hearts line-up was doubled as the result of Arnaud Djoum hobbling off the field to be replaced by 
Harry Cochrane. The Cameroon midfielder was involved in an early heavy collision with Mark O’Hara, and then clattered in the build-up to the goal.

Djoum’s loss was felt as Neil McCann’s side found their way on to the front foot in a 
second period that for long spells appeared dicey for the home side. Scott Allan took a grip in midfield, but the Dens Park side could not press home their territorial advantage. And after being let off by Ross Callachan, who fluffled a golden chance by firing straight at Parish when one-on-one with the keeper, their luck ran out when a 77th minute McDonald corner hit off Cammy Kerr and dropped to Berra to lash in. With that strike, Hearts claimed a two-goal victory for the first time this season.