Christophe Berra recently revealed that he had warned his team-mates to beware an angry Craig Levein. It was, he had apprised them, not a pretty sight.
On Saturday, after they had been sandbagged by a determined Dundee, deep into stoppage time, they got their first glimpse of the new manager on the warpath but it turned out to be nothing compared to the wrath of the captain himself.
“I’m raging,” said Berra, pictured, who will now turn his attentions to the international stage and his role in trying to help Scotland win their last two World Cup qualifiers, against Slovakia and Slovenia. He was furious that he will have to do it on the back of a league loss that could, and should, have been avoided.
“The first half we weren’t great and we conceded from a set-piece. The second half we took the game by the scruff of the neck and their keeper was making good saves. So to concede from a corner at the end of the game is schoolboy stuff.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier in a changing room afterwards. The manager was angry but I was angrier, to be honest. I was going absolutely crazy. I was fuming, I just hate losing and I hate conceding goals. Last week it was an avoidable goal against Partick Thistle and against Hamilton [the week before] it was the same.”
The disappointment did not stem from Berra believing the capital side had a divine right to travel to Dens Park and claim all three points. The form for the past year would render that ridiculous. But he believed that they had done enough throughout the game, not only to battle back from going a goal down but to finally seize control of the match. Even before Kyle Lafferty finished from a tight angle in the 70th minute, cancelling out Kerr Waddell’s 43rd-minute headed opener, play had shifted in such a way, with the visitors gaining the ascendency, that they looked the likelier to claim the victory.
But with Scott Bain and the Dundee rearguard keeping the likes of Lafferty, Isma Goncalves and Jamie Walker at bay, they allowed their concentration to slip. The managers enjoyed a game of chess and, in a bid to take charge of the second half, Hearts moved to a back four, with Prince Buaben, who had replaced Aaron Hughes after an existing calf problem flared up, moving into midfield. The Dees boss opted to do a similar rejig in the hope of winning back some possession. But in the end it all came down to a moment of madness/instant of real intent as the hosts made the most of a corner kick.
In an action replay of Neil McCann’s side’s first goal, young Waddell was given the room to rise above everyone and power a header down, past Jon McLaughlin and into the Hearts net. So late in the day, there was no way back for Hearts who were left to rue missed opportunities and suicidal defending, while Dundee could pat themselves on the back for the way they refused to concede defeat and capitalised on Hearts’ failings.
“It was too simple, both goals we lost,” fumed Berra. “They were exactly the same type of goals. There were no challenges as he headed it into the net. That’s not good enough. If you don’t do the basics right that’s what happens. We need to learn quickly. If you want to be successful in football matches you have to fight and you have to defend set-pieces. It’s basic.
“I don’t think our keeper had many saves to make in the second half. In the first half he had a few crosses to take but you expect that. But they weren’t cutting us open. If any team was going got win in the second half it was us. So to lose it like that made me so angry. We didn’t defend badly but we didn’t deal with set-pieces. It’s a huge part of the game and that’s why I said a few harsh words after the game.
“I wasn’t the only one. But the older I get, the angrier I get. I hate conceding goals. I hate losing. It’s not like we are being carved open. It’s just concentration.”
Hearts had hoped to push into the top six and start closing the gap on the teams vying for third place by the time they return to Tynecastle at the start of November. Instead, those above them edged ever so slightly further ahead, while Dundee finished the day breathing down their neck.