Many found Darren Jackson’s move from Celtic to Hearts as bamboozling, claiming that the £400,000 spent on the midfielder’s move was a desperate gamble on a player well past his best, yet he continued to confound his critics with the winning goal at Pittodrie highlighting the shrewdness of manager Jim Jeffries in the transfer market.
Aberdeen 1-2 Hearts 2 - April 15, 2000
Prior to his arrival the previous season, the Hearts side had lost nine out of ten matches, but with Jackson in the side they were beaten just once, ensuring Hearts avoided relegation.
Jackson’s skills were now being employed to take the Tynecastle team into Europe, with the only realistic challenge coming from Motherwell.
A stunning strike at Easter Road was heralded as the BBC’s Goal of the Month for March and the decisive moment in an otherwise drab game would be a strong contender for the April award.
There seemed little danger when substitute Scott Severin swung a pass wide left to Jackson, but he drifted infield away from a defender before hitting a viciously swerving shot high into the net behind Jim Leighton for an 84th-minute winner.
Jefferies may stop short of saying “Get it up you” in response to any doubters at times, but his underlying message was always clear, just as it was when summing up the contribution of former Hibs player Jackson’s contribution to Hearts’ cause. Jackson would celebrate his 34th birthday during the summer and had a UEFA Cup run to look forward to shortly after that, although one irony was that Aberdeen were already certain of a place in the competition because of their appearance in the Scottish Cup final against Rangers.
Top scorer Gary McSwegan, who had scored two hat-tricks in his last two games against the Pittodrie club, dropped to the bench after damaging his hamstring and Gary Wales returned to the side.
Scott Severin was also left out, with Jamaican Fitzroy Simpson returning to the left-hand side of midfield. Despite the stakes being high for both clubs, there was little in the way of incident in the opening minutes, although Aberdeen did see more of the ball.
An interception from Gary Naysmith prevented Arild Stavrum from getting a shot in on goal and then Andy Dow’s attempted cross turned into a shot Antti Niemi had to hold.
But the Dons did draw first blood in the 13th minute after some slack play by the Gorgie club.
Steven Pressley failed to control the ball in the middle of the Aberdeen half, and the home side immediately broke upfield.
The Norwegian swapped passes with fellow countryman Cato Guntveit before smashing a six-yard shot behind goalkeeper Antti Niemi – another Scandinavian. And, without the influence of injured captain Colin Cameron, the visitors seemed to lack the invention to salvage the situation.
A hotly-disputed free kick nine minutes from the end changed all that as Lee Makel swung over a cross from the right after the dust had settled, and a lack of concentration at the back saw Gary Wales nod in an equaliser. Jackson then completed the recovery in style, leaving Ebbe Skovdahl, the Aberdeen manager, feeling like the subject of a mugging.
Hearts: Niemi, Flogel, Naysmith, Petric, Pressley, Jackson, Makel, Simpson, Tomaschek, Adam, Wales.