Maroon memories: Good times ahead for Jambos

Stephane Adam and other celebrate Hearts' first goal. Picture: TSPL
Stephane Adam and other celebrate Hearts' first goal. Picture: TSPL
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Hearts 2 - 0 Dundee, May 20 2001

HEARTS missed out on a European place on the last day of the season, but there was enough guile and craft about their display against Dundee to suggest that better times lay ahead the following season. Well-taken goals and influential performances by Stephane Adam and Colin Cameron at Tynecastle eased the disappointment for the club, as Hearts continued to progress under Craig Levein’s direction.

It said much for the young coach’s work during the previous six months that Hearts came agonisingly close to making up the 14-point advantage which Kilmarnock enjoyed over them at one stage of the campaign. In the end, Hearts fell just a little short, but there was no disgrace in that.

What was lost in cruel circumstances was not a money-spinning opportunity, but the chance to learn. Levein was piecing together a team of fresh faces and eager spirits.

With Steven Pressley missing through suspension, Scott Severin dropped back from midfield into a three-man defence alongside Kevin McKenna and Andy Webster. This allowed the full-backs, Robbie Neilson and Austin McCann, to push on beside the midfield trio of Robert Tomaschek, Cameron and Steven Boyack and deny Dundee’s five a numerical advantage.

with the midfield so congested – there were ten bodies lurking around the halfway line at any given moment – it was hardly surprising the first half lacked much in the way of shape or fluency. Dundee looked the more relaxed side in possession, but didn’t create a clear-cut chance until McKenna headed away from Fabian Caballero nine minutes before the break. Hearts, on the other hand, were more direct and did more with less.

Boyack’s deep corner after eight minutes to the back post, for example, invited McKenna to do better than miss the target with a close range attempt when only a touch was needed to fill the net. If that was careless, Adam could count himself unlucky after 26 minutes when a half-volley from a high angle was scrambled off the line by the boot of a defender.

Juan Sara came on for Mark Robertson at the start of the second period, but it was Hearts who dictated the tempo. It was only Andy Kirk’s inexperience, trying to squeeze in a shot at the near post when the percentages suggested the Irishman needed to shoot towards the far post, which stopped the home side from taking the lead.

Since Adam’s gorgeous flick into space created the chance in the first place, it was appropriate the Frenchman should get on the end of Boyack’s corner and force the ball over the line from point-blank range to open the scoring.

It was no more than Hearts’ pressure merited, and prompted a spell of coherent passing as bright and imaginative as anything the team had produced all season.

The scoreline didn’t reflect the home side’s superiority until Cameron’s 73rd-minute goal, an absolute gem, started and finished by the Scotland man with half-a-dozen touches in-between.

Cameron’s pass to Fulton saw the substitute spread the play to Adam on the left wing. The striker’s deep cross beyond the back post was kept in play by Wales, who knocked it back to Tomaschek. The Slovakian did well to shield the ball before a ferocious volley by Cameron sped into the roof of the net.

Hearts: Niemi, Neilson, McKenna, Webster, McCann, Boyack (Fulton 65), Severin (Murray 86), Cameron, Tomaschek, Adam, Kirk (Wales 62). Subs not used: McKenzie, Simmons.