Maroon Memories: Hartley blasts Hearts to glory

Paul Hartley guides home a 25-yard free-kick to secure victory for Hearts over Dundee United
Paul Hartley guides home a 25-yard free-kick to secure victory for Hearts over Dundee United
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A sensational late winner from Paul Hartley saw Hearts edge a five-goal thriller at home to lowly Dundee United.

Manager John Robertson made two changes from the side which had drawn 0-0 away to Partick Thistle in the third-round of the Scottish Cup, with Dennis Wyness and Graham Weir dropping out to make way for top scorer Hartley and Ramon Pereira.

There was no place for new signing Lee Miller, however, with the striker having to make do with a seat on the substitutes’ bench.

The hosts assumed control from the first whistle. Canadian striker Kevin McKenna got a far-post header in on goal from a Joe Hamill cross after four minutes, but United goalkeeper Tony Bullock saved comfortably.

Moments later Stevie Crawford, making his United debut after moving from Plymouth Argyle, should have opened his account when Grant Brebner robbed Phil Stamp in the midfield area to send the Scotland internationalist clean through on goal.

However, the striker – now assistant manager at Hearts – blasted his 16-yard shot straight at keeper Craig Gordon and the ball was eventually cleared to safety as the Jambos defence regrouped.

Then, in the 19th minute, the visitors took the lead courtesy of a deflected free-kick from midfielder Barry Robson.

After Derek McInnes had been pushed in the back by Hartley 25 yards out, Robson stepped up to thunder a left-footed shot towards goal. The strike took a touch off the Hearts wall and arced over Gordon and into the top corner.

The Tynecastle side battled to regain their grip on the match, but their fans began to lose patience as United calmly held firm in defence.

In the 32nd minute, McKenna had a decent chance when he latched onto a Pereira lob into the penalty area, but the Spaniard was off balance and knocked his volley past Bullock’s left-hand post.

The home side were back on level terms after 44 minutes when Stamp swung a corner over from the right which the United keeper came out and missed completely. Jambos skipper Steven Pressley was at the back post to volley into the empty goal from close range.

New Hearts striker Miller came on to make his debut after the interval and his arrival was to pay instant dividends as the former Falkirk forward opened his account in the 48th minute to edge the Tynecastle side in front.

It looked at that point as if the hosts had their tails up and would go on to assert their authority. But in the 53rd minute, the visitors equalised with a tremendous Alan Archibald free-kick from around 25 yards after Hearts full-back Robbie Neilson had been penalised for high feet.

As the Hearts defensive wall braced themselves, Mark Wilson rolled the ball across to the former Partick defender who unleashed an unstoppable drive past the flailing Gordon.

The three points were again up for grabs as play raced from end to end. Pereira might have done better in the 64th minute when he blasted his right-footed shot over the bar from 16 yards after skilfully turning inside Wilson. The home side dominated the latter stages of the game and eventually got the goal their pressure deserved in the 86th minute after United’s former Hearts defender Paul Ritchie fouled Dennis Wyness.

Hartley duly hammered home a 25-yard free-kick with the aid of a deflection to secure a welcome victory for the home side.

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, McAllister, Webster, Pressley, Stamp, McFarlane, Hartley, Hamill, McKenna, Pereira