Revenge is Sweet – Dundee vs Hearts Match Report
After a 6-2 thrashing at Tynecastle on the opening day of the Championship season, Dundee were able to enact revenge and dish out Hearts’ second league defeat of the season, running out as 3-1 winners at Dens Park. Jamie Mcintosh reports.
Ever since Dundee were thumped 6-2 at Tynecastle on the opening night of the 2020/21 Championship season, the Dark Blues would have been itching for the opportunity to put things right against the men from Gorgie and tonight seemed like a good chance for them to do exactly that. After a shambolic start to the season, James McPake’s side were finally hitting the form that many people expected would see them challenge Hearts for the Championship crown.
There was one change to the Dundee side that defeated Alloa at Dens Park on Tuesday, with Danny Mullen returning to bolster the frontline at the expense of Declan McDaid.
As for Hearts, an announcement was made by the club prior to the match, explaining that another first team player was in a period of isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. Following on from talks with the Joint Response Group, it was revealed that no other player would have to isolate – the news comes after Josh Ginnelly was also made to isolate until January 4th, following a positive test.
Robbie Neilson made three changes to the side that defeated Arbroath during the week, Michael Smith is believed to be the Hearts player joining Josh Ginnelly in isolation, he was replaced by Jamie Brandon. Liam Boyce failed to shake off the calf/hamstring problem that saw him forced off in the first half on Tuesday and was replaced by Stephen Kingsley and Andy Irving dropped to the bench after being at fault for the Litchies midweek goal at Tynecastle, Jamie Walker replaced him.
The Match Itself
It was evident in the opening minute that the hosts – as you would expect – were pumped up for this one, with Shaun Byrne’s late challenge on Hearts skipper Naismith setting the tone for the evening.
Chances fell early on for both teams – Charlie Adam found his range early and was the first Dundee player to test Craig Gordon from distance, before Danny Mullen was denied after being sent through on goal by ex-Hearts man Jordan McGhee.
Dundee got the lead that their early play deserved after just 13 minutes. Charlie Adam was given all the time in the world to swing a perfect cross to the back post, where Jordan McGee had arrived unmarked in behind Stephen Kingsley to head the hosts into an early lead.
There were only 15 minutes played but the similarities to the Dunfermline game were there for all to see in the early stages. Dundee looked much hungrier than Hearts and the visitors were struggling to retain possession, never-mind create anything in front of goal. Hearts were generally playing the ball long to sole striker Craig Wighton, which was not working and when the visitors tried to pass the ball, a Dundee shirt was right on top of them.
Osman Sow should have doubled the home side’s lead just before the half hour mark, when Dundee’s offensive right back Christie Elliott beat Jamie Walker to the ball and crossed for Sow, who just flicked the ball wide of the near post.
Shaun Byrne clearly had plenty of fire in his stomach on what was a bitterly cold Saturday night, but the midfielder was perhaps fortunate to stay on the park after bringing down Jamie Walker on a Hearts counter, whilst already on a booking.
Hearts had come into the game as was to be expected, but the hosts were still on top and deservedly doubled their lead ten minutes before the break, when talisman Charlie Adam nutmegged Peter Haring on the left, before picking out the unmarked Mullen to power a header past Gordon and assert the hosts’ dominance.
Dundee were fairly comfortable for the remainder of the half, with their biggest scare coming through an injury to goal-scorer Jordan McGhee, however the defender played on.
As a defender himself during his playing career, Hearts manager Robbie Neilson would not be impressed with the defending on show from his Hearts side in the first half. As for the hosts, however, Dundee were fully deserving of their two goal lead and if truth be told, The Dee could – and should – have been further ahead at the break.
Robbie Neilson made one change at the break, introducing Andy Irving in place of Peter Haring, who did not look anywhere near his usual, composed self. After a lacklustre response in the opening ten minutes, Neilson turned to his bench once again, selecting young forward Euan Henderson as the man to bring about the spark that the visitors desperately needed – Craig Wighton was the man hooked, but in fairness to the striker, he received virtually no service all evening from his teammates.
Hearts got the route back into the game they craved moments later, as substitute Irving’s free kick went all the way through without a touch, deceiving Jack Hamilton and finding the far corner of the net. With that, Hearts were back in the game with more than 30 minutes remaining.
As is so often the case with 2-0 leads, the third goal in the game is always vital and considering that the visitors had got it, the pendulum was swinging in their favour and Hearts were now pushing for an equaliser.
Jack Hamilton has been criticised regularly throughout his career, but he came up with a big save for the hosts with 20 to minutes to play, when Naismith was slipped through by substitute Henderson – the Dundee stopper pounced bravely at the skipper’s feet to deny him.
Henderson was again involved five minutes later. Receiving a through ball from Halliday, the youngster cut the ball back for the onrushing Stephen Kingsley who headed over from close range with the goal at his mercy.
Hearts huffed and puffed but failed to find the equaliser and when Berra fouled Ashcroft in the penalty box with seven minutes to play, Dundee substitute Jonathan Afolabi stepped up and found the top corner from 12 yards to seal the three points for the hosts.
Hearts continued to go long with no success and Jack Hamilton was called into action for the final time in stoppage time to deny Henderson, who would be one of the few Hearts players to receive pass marks in my eyes.
Minutes later, Don Robertson put the suffering Hearts fans watching at home out of their misery and confirmed Dundee’s move to within five points of leaders Hearts who do still have a game in hand.
On the whole, the game was a carbon copy of Hearts’ other league defeat this season at East End Park against Dunfermline, where Hearts’ opponents were hungrier and just produced better quality in the first half, before Hearts eventually woke up, created a few chances, but failed to take them and were defeated because of it.
Post Match Comments
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was noticeably unimpressed with referee Don Robertson’s performance, as well as his own team’s first half performance, but insists this is just a bump in the road and his side will bounce back from it.
“We didn’t start well enough, Dundee did and they got in-front. I thought second half we dominated and on the balance of chances, we probably should’ve got at least a point.
“I also thought we were on the end of another poor refereeing decision tonight in the first minute of the game. I think it’s a red card and if Don gives that then the game is completely different.”
Both teams take a break from league action next weekend with the Scottish Cup taking centre stage – Dundee host Bonnyrigg Rose and Hearts face a trip to either of Brora Rangers or Camelon Juniors, who face off on Monday.