No prizes are handed out after trouncing a dreadful Dundee side on their own patch. But no one could begrudge these Hearts fans some giddy reverie as they disappeared into the night. It’s now late October and their side had just pulled six points clear at the top of the Premiership.
Craig Levein had expressed caution at the prospect of going to the home of a side who are fighting for their life at the bottom. He was worrying unduly. For one thing Dundee look nothing like a side who are fighting for their life.
They went down in the meekest manner here. They have now lost six successive home games for the first time in the top flight. It’s looking ever bleaker for a club struggling to get the basics right on and off the park. An unresolved issue with appointing new manager Jim McIntyre’s assistant rumbles on.
Hearts are not concerned by what is happening at bottom end of a table. They have far higher ambitions and were in control here from the start, opening the scoring in the 2nd minute through Oliver Bozanic free-kick. Steven Naismith put them two in front after 14 minutes.
Calvin Miller missed a penalty for Dundee shortly afterwards. It might have been better had the hosts not been awarded it. The effect was to plunge the home fans deeper into misery. It was tough calculating the lowest moment for Dundee supporters though perhaps conceding a goal within 20 seconds of a second half that was kicked off by their own team was hard to beat. Steven MacLean pounced on Calumn Morrison’s cut-back to make it 3-0.
The home fans also had to endure the sight of Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal swinging on the bar like Henry Smith of old on the instruction of the away fans. Craig Wighton, a Dundee fan in boyhood and hugely popular former player, also replaced Naismith with 20 minutes left.
One blessing, for Dundee fans at least, was that he did not score. Hearts already had the points wrapped up. Craig Levein’s thoughts were drifting towards Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic at BT Murrayfield.
Hearts are the opposite of Dundee in more ways than simply league position. Everything about them is upbeat at the moment. Levein was cheered all the way to the dug-out and the team enjoyed noisy backing from the off. The manager was loudly hailed by the away fans at the end.
Dundee’s woes started early. As on Saturday, when they conceded four goals from set pieces, they were speared by a free-kick. At least this time it was not a header, as they all were against Livingston.
Jack Hamilton, the former Hearts ‘keeper, was the beneficiary of goalkeeper Elliot Parish’s being identified as one of the culprits in West Lothian. Parish dropped to the bench. But Hamilton, playing in front of nearly 2,000 Hearts fans, had to retrieve the ball from the net after little more than a minute.
The immediate lift so often identified following a change in manager has been conspicuous by its absence since McIntyre’s arrival. The muted response as he took his place in the dug out for his first home match since his appointment perhaps said it all.
His side then conceded within the first 100 seconds. Lewis Spence brought down Harry Cochrane, who was making his first league start of the season, 20 yards from goal. Dundee had plenty time to get their wall in order. Hamilton had plenty time to get his angles right. But Bozanic still found the bottom corner with a left-foot curler.
Before 15 minutes had elapsed, Hearts were two up. It was another ghastly goal for Dundee to lose. Elton Ngwatala dallied too long and lost possession o the edge of the Hearts box. The visitors turned defence into attack with Michael Smith hurting Dundee with pace on the right. Dundee defender Ryan Inniss tried to block the cross at the front post but missed, helping put off his goalkeeper. The ball was allowed to run through to Steven Naismith, who swept home.
It looked bleak for Dundee. One shard of light was the memory of being 2-0 down to Hearts at the break before winning 3-2 in one of Ian Cathro’s first games in charge of the Tynecastle side.
And Dundee were handed the perfect chance to start eating into the deficit when Calvin Miller’s cross from the left led Jimmy Dunne dragging its intended target. Benji Kallman, to the ground. Referee Craig Thomson pointed to the spot. Kenny Miller might have been expected to take it but instead his younger namesake accepted the task of bringing Dundee back into the game. His trusty left-foot let him down badly in this instance and he dragged his effort a yard past goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal’s left-hand post.
There was a sense, just 21 minutes in, that this was it. Dundee’s race was already run. MacLean hit the bar with a neat chip having been given far too much time in the box. He was denied shortly afterwards by a fine block from Hamilton.
Hearts got the third goal their play deserved 16 seconds after the re-start. In view of what happened so soon into the first-half, McIntyre’s most urgent message would likely have been to keep things tight from the re-start. Dundee were unpicked almost immediately after losing possession. Morrison crossed from the right and MacLean turned the ball in from the edge of the six-yard box.