Maroon Memories: Hearts blow away Dundee to go top

Derek Ferguson scored twice for Hearts. John Robertson opened the scoring on a dreich night
Derek Ferguson scored twice for Hearts. John Robertson opened the scoring on a dreich night
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ON A night when both defences found it difficult to batten down the hatches in galeforce conditions, Hearts did enough damage in the first half to see them through the inevitable testing time afterwards.

With the wind blowing straight down Dens Park, Hearts took advantage to set up a two-goal lead which Dundee were not able to retrieve.

The victory puts Hearts at the top of the Premier Division, and, even if it lasts only 24 hours, it is a lift to their morale, especially after they had to replace Scott Crabbe with George Wright because the forward pulled a muscle in the warm-up.

John Robertson put them in front early on, and although Billy Dodds equalised, two more scores by Derek Ferguson and Craig Levein put Hearts on the road and the miles to success.

They had to rely on some good fortune and alert goalkeeping by Henry Smith to hold the fort.

Dundee manager Simon Stainrod made it clear that he considered Jim Leighton one of the players at fault for the 6-3 drubbing by Partick 
Thistle at the weekend when he left out the international keeper. His place was taken by Paul Mathers, the former Scottish under-21 goalkeeper, but the young man was only two and a half minutes into the action when he lost a goal.

And the fact that John Robertson steered the ball through his legs did not make it any more palatable.

Mathers was blameless, however, as he had raced out to try to block the Hearts striker who had been sent clear of the defence by a Gary Mackay pass.

That goal, and the powerful wind at their backs, put Hearts in charge and Robertson almost escaped 
the Dens defence again shortly afterwards. He was also caught offside twice as he showed the pace and sharpness which can alarm the best of defences.

He was darting through the middle again in 13 minutes to bring out a fine save from Mathers who did even better later when Wayne Foster was sent clear by another Mackay pass. Foster tried to go around the keeper but Mathers made an excellent tackle.

But in 18 minutes Dundee pulled themselves back into contention with a goal splendidly taken by Dodds. Neil Berry had made a hash of an attempted clearance, and when the ball dropped, Dodds cleverly lofted it over Smith and into the net.

Having emulated Robertson, Dodds then did his best to outdo the Hearts man, first with a shot that was saved by Smith but then, when given a better look at goal, hitting a rather weak effort past the post.

Despite the conditions, there was no shortage of goalmouth fun and in 29 minutes Hearts went ahead again.

Jim Duffy was booked for conceding a free kick on the far side, and when Peter van de Ven lofted the ball into the middle, Levein nodded it sideways for Ferguson to placed it out of the reach of Mathers.

Every time Hearts went forward, propelled by the wind, they looked liable to score and after 36 minutes, they did the trick again. This time it was Levein, who had assisted with the previous score, who finished it off himself. He was in the right place to outjump the opposition and head home a corner from McKinlay.

Foster was booked for a foul on Alan Dinnie, but it was Dundee who were relieved to hear the half-time whistle.

They re-appeared with both substitutes on the field, Gary Paterson and John McQuillan replacing Kevin Ratcliffe and Jamie McGowan as they took their turn of the supporting gale.

And almost immediately they could be counted unlucky when Dusan Vrto was tripped by Ferguson inside the area. It looked a clear penalty but, in referee Roy’s defence, he may have been unsighted by other players.

Graeme Hogg had his name taken for a foul on Vrto and then Gilzean was shown the yellow card for an off-the-ball incident.

It may have been cold in the stand but it was hot enough on the park. McQuillan demonstrated that with a shot which hit the side net.

Dundee: Mathers, Dinnie, Ratcliffe, Duffy, McGowan, Campbell, Den Bieman, Vrto, Gilzean, Dodds, Rix. Substitutes: McQuillan, Paterson.

Hearts: Smith, Hogg, McKinlay, Levein, Mackay, Van de Ven, Robertson, Ferguson, Wright, Berry, Foster. Substitutes: Snodin, Johnson.

Referee: A Roy (Aberdeen)