A LATE deflected goal brought Hearts victory in Dumfries after tight and tense affair against Queen of the South.
The game was decided when Genero Zeefuik’s shot from Adam Eckersley’s cross ricocheted off a combination of Andy Dowie and Chris Higgins and bounced into the net with six minutes remaining. It was sufficient to give the Edinburgh club three points and keep them 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship.
Danny Carmichael had given Queens the lead in the first half from Lewis Kidd’s cross, but Billy King converted Callum Paterson’s delivery nine minutes later to restore parity. The 1-1 interval scoreline underlined what little there was between these two teams. Hearts pushed forward regularly in the second half and forced a late winner, much to the delight of the visiting support from Edinburgh.
Paul Burns had the game’s first shot in the fifth minute as Queen of the South showed their intent to attack the league leaders. Following a 12th-minute corner, Michael Paton drove an attempt wide from 20 yards. Queens’ pressing game was preventing Hearts settling into any quick passing rhythm, whilst the Dumfries side were also dangerous with some quick balls into the final third. It was no great surprise when they moved ahead.
Kidd made progress on the right, took a pass from Mark Millar and crossed for the unmarked Carmichael to stroke the ball into the net at the back post. The Hearts defence was momentarily static and might have found themselves further behind moments later. Paton dispossessed Morgaro Gomis in the centre circle and sped off for goal with no-one but Neil Alexander to beat. However, the Hearts goalkeeper held what was ultimately a tame shot as Paton ran out of steam.
Hearts’ equaliser came slightly against the run of play but there was no questioning its conviction. Paterson’s run and cross from the right was superbly finished off by King, who sent the ball soaring high beyond keeper Zander Clark with a first-time right-footed finish from the penalty spot. Queen of the South defender Chris Higgins was cautioned for dissent as the home players complained about an apparent foul in the build-up.
From that point, Miguel Pallardo took greater control of midfield, winning tackles and supplying probing forward passes. From one of his through balls, Jamie Walker skipped by an opponent before his attempt at goal from a narrow angle was deflected for a corner. His influence saw Hearts reach the interval looking the better team, although Queens’ first-half performance deserved plenty credit.
Having looked less than fully fit in the first period, the visiting midfielder Prince Buaben was replaced by Kenny Anderson at the break. Both teams raised the tempo for the second half, resulting in play switching frequently from end to end. Clear chances remained at a premium, though.
Gomis saw his shot held by Clark and Hearts began pressing for a possible winning goal as the minutes ticked away. Zeefuik, who had mainly been ineffective, stroked a shot wide on the turn, crosses arrived in the Queen of the South penalty box without takers, and Danny Wilson headed a corner off target.
Eventually, the pressure brought rewards. The dominant Eckersley made one of umpteen runs down the left, his cross was sent goalwards by the inside of Zeefuik’s left foot and the ball deflected into the net via a combination of Dowie and Higgins. The vast travelling support celebrated wildly at the prospect of victory.
The dying seconds saw Queens keeper Clark charge forward for Carmichael’s corner in a desperate search for an equaliser. He connected with the ball but headed narrowly wide. That was the final act of the game as Hearts held on for a vital win.
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