Dundee’s Championship season got off to a bad start with a 6-2 defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle. The real damage was done in a disastrous first half. Hearts went into a two goal lead through Michael Smith and Josh Ginnelly. Charlie Adam pulled a goal back, but further Hearts goals before half time, from a Liam Boyce penalty and Stephen Kingsley, left the Dee with an impossible task. Dundee improved after the break and Danny Mullen came off the bench to notch the Dee’s second. However, that was the end of the Dee’s fightback and Hearts closed out the game easily, helping themselves to late goals from Kingsley again and Andy Halliday.
The Dark Blues had three changes from the team that beat Brora last week. Cammy Kerr, Finlay Robertson and Osman Sow came in for Christie Elliott, Max Anderson and Danny Mullen. Hearts made no fewer than 10 changes from their Betfred Cup win over Raith Rovers. Only Stephen Kingsley kept his place.
It took Hearts only three minutes to take the lead when Dundee’s defence switched off. The Dark Blues failed to track Michael SMITH as he ran onto Josh Ginnelly’s pass, allowing him to cut inside Jordon FORSTER and shoot under Jack Hamilton.
The Dark Blues simply could not get their passing game going and didn’t put a move together in the first 10 minutes. Even then they couldn’t settle on the ball and make any passes that could hurt Hearts. The Jam Tarts, meanwhile, were looking dangerous with every attack, finding space out wide too often and too easily.
Charlie Adam had the Dee’s first effort, turning 22 yards from goal and bringing a good save from Craig Gordon. At the other end Jack Hamilton had to parry Liam Boyce’s powerful drive.
The second Hearts goal arrived midway through the half. A corner was cleared as far as Josh GINNELLY 25 yards out. He took a touch and powered a low drive through the legs of Dorrans and Boyce, and just inside Hamilton’s right hand post.
Dundee had offered little threat up to this point, but responded quickly with a fine goal. Charlie ADAM picked up the ball in midfield and ran past some ineffective challenges before cracking an unstoppable shot past Craig Gordon, his first competitive god for the Dee.
The fightback was undone by an unfortunate penalty conceded after 33 minutes. Roberts dummied over a pass that took out two defenders, leaving Boyce free to shoot. The striker’s shot was heading for the corner flag when it struck Jordan Marshall’s arm. BOYCE tucked the penalty away.
In first half injury time Hearts put the game out of Dundee’s reach with a superb free kick from Stephen KINGSLEY, whipping the ball over the defensive wall and into the top corner from 22 yards.
Dundee replaced Jordon Forster with Jonathan Afolabi at half time and switched to 4-4-2, with a midfield diamond. The change allowed the Dee to dominate the central midfield and carry the match to Hearts at last.
Adam was close with a 25 yard free kick and Afolabi tested Gordon with a fierce low drive. A fast Dundee break ended with Afolabi feeding Paul McGowan, whose shot was blocked.
Danny Mullen came on for Osman Sow and almost scored with a shot from distance that took a big deflection, but Gordon reacted athletically to keep the ball out. The Dark Blues were having their best spell of the match and Mullen didn’t have long to wait for the first league goal of his Dee career.
Afolabi showed great strength and persistence to keep possession before shooting. The shot struck a defender, and fell nicely for MULLEN to dink the ball over Gordon for a delightful finish.
Hearts responded to the Dee’s fightback by switching to a midfield diamond themselves and tightening up the middle of the park. Peter Haring and Andy Halliday replaced Andy Irving and Josh Ginnelly. The change settled the game in Hearts’ favour, allowing them to see out the game comfortably.
McGowan had a shot save by Gordon at the end of a fine Dorrans run, but that was the only threat that Dundee posed in the last 20 minutes. The Dee kept going, chasing the game, but they neglected the defensive basics and allowed Hearts two late goals that were far too easily conceded.
After 83 minutes Hearts moved the ball along the edge of the 18 yard box without any effective challenges, and Roberts passed the ball back for KINGSLEY to take aim and hit a perfect rising shot past Hamilton. Six minutes later Hearts broke away from defence, playing through a wide open Dundee midfield, before Walker found HALLIDAY in space to score.
Dundee were disappointing in midfield for much of tonight’s game, and poor in defence. For most of the match Hearts’ players won their battles against the Dark Blues, and ruthlessly punished Dundee’s failings at the back. Hearts did not play brilliant football, but they got the basics right, unlike Dundee. In the first half they were constantly able to find space around the Dundee wing backs, and pose problems that the central defenders couldn’t handle.
The Dark Blues’ talented players could never settle on the ball to control the game and open Hearts up in the first half. When they started to do so after the interval Hearts reshaped to snuff out the danger and go on to win comfortably. For a spell it did look possible that Dundee might salvage something from the game. But the way that Hearts recognised that threat and cancelled the Dundee fightback only confirmed their superiority on the night.
Heart of Midlothian 4-2-3-1
Smith, Halkett, Popescu, Kingsley
Lee, Irving (Haring 68)
Ginnelly (Halliday 73), Walker, Roberts
Boyce (Wighton 76)
Unused subs: Stewart (gl), White, Naismith, Frear.
Goals: Smith (3), Ginnelly, (24), Boyce (33 pen), Kingsley (45+1, 83), Halliday (92).
Booked: Irving (foul on Dorrans), Walker (kicking the ball away).
Dundee FC 3-4-1-2
McGhee, Forster (Afolabi at half time), Ashcroft
Kerr, Adam, Robertson (Anderson 77), Marshall
Sow (Mullen 51) , McGowan
Unused sub: Ferrie (gk), McDaid, Elliott.
Goals: Adam (26), Mullen (67).
Booked: Dorrans (foul on Popescu), Sow (foul on Smith), Marshall (handball).
Referee: David Munro. Assistants: Andrew McWilliam, Kevin McElhinney. Fourth Official: Calum Scott.
Report: James Christie.