Hearts edged out Dundee 1-0 at Tynecastle this afternoon, thanks to an early goal by Esmael Goncalves. The Dark Blues had few chances in a tense and scrappy match, coming closest with a Tom Hateley free kick that struck the post.
The Dee made two changes from Tuesday’s match in Dingwall. Tom Hateley came in at right wing back, with Daniel Higgins making his debut at centre back on his 19th birthday. Kevin Gomis dropped onto the bench Danny Williams was suspended. Cammy Kerr moved across the park to play left wing back. There were three changes in the Hearts’ line-up. Prince Buaben, Liam Smith and Arnaud Djoum started in the places of Anastasios Avlonitis, Lennard Sowah and Bjorn Johnsen.
The match started quietly with both teams struggling to put moves together until Hearts scored after 13 minutes. The home side had tried on a few occasions to slot diagonal passes between the Dee centre backs looking for runners and they got it right when Don Cowie found Esmael GONCALVES, who dragged the ball wide of Paul McGowan’s challenge and scored with an angled shot despite the efforts of Darren O’Dea on the line to keep it out.
Hearts failed to capitalise on that lead and the match entered a lengthy, scrappy phase. The Dark Blues were struggling to work worthwhile balls into the Hearts’ penalty area, but nearly crafted a chance from a long throw. Marcus Haber nodded the ball on and Jamie Walker did enough at the far post to stop Tom Hateley reaching the ball.
The Jam Tarts gradually discovered some fluency and began to move the ball around smoothly, looking dangerous for a spell. Goncalves’ power and skill was always a threat, but Hearts couldn’t add the right final ball to some neat moves. Don Cowie did put over a perfect cross that was met by a strong header from 10 yards by Arnaud Djoum, but Scott Bain’s fine save at full length kept the ball out.
The Dark Blues then went even closer when Tom Hateley whipped in a great free kick from the left that no-one could reach. The ball was hurtling inside the far post, but Jack Hamilton reacted superbly to turn the ball onto the post.
Dundee started the second half positively, spending more time on the attack than they had in the first half. They did manage to play a few good crosses into the goalmouth, but couldn’t find a Dundee player on the end of any of them.
Just after the hour the Dark Blues had their best chance of the match. Craig Wighton had only just arrived on the park, replacing Henrik Ojamaa, when Andraz Struna gifted the ball to him. Kristian Nowak should have recovered but was brushed aside by the Dee youngster who was through one on one with Hamilton. Sadly Wighton pulled his shot well wide.
Hearts then had a lengthy period of pressure but a solid Dundee defence didn’t allow them any clear chances. Scott Bain again showed quick reactions when Goncalves’ 25 yard shot struck Hearts’ substitute Malaury Martin, sending the ball looping towards the net, but the Dee keeper adjusted his feet to save comfortably. At the other end Jack Hamilton didn’t look quite so composed when he dropped a high cross under pressure from Mark O’Hara, but Hearts escaped in the ensuing scramble.
Towards the end Darren O’Dea moved up front to join Haber and Wighton, but to no avail. The Dark Blues had plenty of possession in the Hearts’ half but the home defence held out without any scares.
The brightest aspect of this game was Gorgie’s gorgeous warm sunshine. The football was seldom better than disappointing. Both sides looked like they have been well out of form. What little fluency there was came only in patches from Hearts. Dundee worked hard, and like the home team, pressed energetically as the ball pinged to and fro. There was little to bring cheer to the travelling Dees but the most positive feature of the game was an excellent debut performance in central defence by Daniel Higgins, who looked very much at home after being thrown in at the deep end.
Smith, Buaben, Nowak, Struna
Kitchen (c), Tziolis
Cowie, Djoum (Martin 60), Walker (Currie 64)
Goncalves (Johnsen 89)
Unused subs: Noring (gk), Avlonitis, Choulay, Beith.
Goals: Goncalves (13).
Dundee FC 3-5-2
Higgins, O’Dea (c), Holt
Hateley, O’Hara, Vincent, McGowan, Kerr
Ojamaa (Wighton 58), Haber
Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Ross, Dryden, Ian Smith, Kevin Gomis.
Booked: Kerr (foul on Smith).
Attendance: 16,304 (605 Dees).
Referee: Crawford Allan. Assistants: Gordon Crawford, Ralph Gordon. Fourth official: Don Robertson.
Report: James Christie.