This time last year, Dundee United were laughing as they targeted the domestic treble. A year on and only their rivals are chortling. No longer are United seeking three trophies – three points would be miracle enough.
After losing 3-2 at Tynecastle last night, manager Mixu Paatelainen acknowledged their severe defensive deficiencies. He said: “The goals we conceded were jokes again. Man marking at a corner kick, as much as we have spoken about that and practiced that to make sure everyone knows their jobs, that cost us.
“The goal that the keeper parries into our own net… we need to avoid goals like that. So I am disappointed. I thought the effort our boys showed was excellent and our organisation when we were a man down was excellent.
“The boys were tired and it was a pity we had to make substitutions because of the sending off and the injury.
“We could have used fresh legs in the second half to worry them more. So all credit to the boys for the way they battled, but it wasn’t enough.”
For Hearts,the night was more profitable, with three points moving them to within seven points of second-placed Aberdeen with a game in hand. Manager Robbie Neilson said: “It was a great night for us. St Johnstone got beat and Aberdeen drew and that lifts us up the league a wee bit, a bit closer to Aberdeen and a bit further away from St Johnstone and now we go into a tough game on Saturday against Kilmarnock.
“I thought the crowd was great and they were right behind us. we went 3-1 up and then gave away a slack goal. The second half there was a wee bit nervousness in the team and we were worried about making a mistake.”
The joy of the victory was tempered by the news that winger Jamie Walker, who last played on 28 October, has undergone a knee operation and faces several weeks out.