NEW loan signing Genero Zeefuik scored twice as Hearts enjoyed a convincing win at Dumbarton.
The Dutchman saw his penalty saved as he tried for a hat-trick but his two goals, plus one from Jamie Walker and a Sam Nicholson double, maintained the Edinburgh club’s sizeable advantage at the top of the Scottish Championship.
Zeefuik arrived on loan from FC Groningen on Thursday and was pitched straight into the Hearts team at the Bet Butler Stadium. After Nicholson and Walker had secured a 2-0 half-time advantage, Zeefuik scored twice after the break from close range. Nicholson also hit the net again but Zeefuik was denied the match ball by a fine save from the Dumbarton goalkeeper Danny Rogers.
Chris Kane reduced the deficit for the hosts, who were well beaten on the day. Their part-time players put in a commendable performance in the first 45 minutes but found themselves overwhelmed after the interval.
In freezing and blustery conditions on the banks of the River Clyde, the weather and pitch made free-flowing football difficult and Dumbarton tried to make use of a strong wind at their backs. Yet they found themselves 1-0 down on eight minutes. Nicholson collected a loose ball and drilled it low past Rogers from around 30 yards. He set off to celebrate knowing he had given the visitors an ideal start to the match.
There was a moment of consternation a few minutes later when Andy Graham won Scott Agnew’s free-kick inside the Hearts penalty box. His header bounced wide before Agnew struck the top of the crossbar direct from a corner. Hearts responded with a powerful drive from Zeefuik which Rogers had to parry.
The game remained open and, in the 17th minute, Dumbarton again came tantalisingly close. Mark Gilhaney’s swinging cross was headed goalwards by midfielder Chris Turner, only for the ball to rebound off the bar again. It then bounced down but not over the goal line.
Neil Alexander, the Hearts goalkeeper, saved at Gilhaney’s feet before Archie Campbell’s shot from the resultant loose ball was cleared off the line by Alim Ozturk. Play quickly transferred to the opposite end again, where Walker might have been awarded a penalty for a tackle when going past Graham.
On 26 minutes, Hearts did score again. Zeefuik deserved credit for controlling a high ball in the strong gales and sending a pass through to Walker. The winger took a touch and dispatched his finish into the corner of the net despite Rogers getting a touch.
Alexander prevented Gilhaney’s drive reaching the top corner and Hearts had a couple of shots blocked towards the end of the first half. The elements were contributing to an entertaining game and the second period was no different. With the wind now behind them, Hearts pressed forward in numbers and blew their hosts apart.
James Keatings lashed a 20-yarder off the Dumbarton crossbar before the third goal arrived. Nicholson supplied Walker for a run and cutback which Zeefuik converted from close range with his left foot. The Dutchman would still have been smiling to himself when Nicholson struck again to make it 4-0 Hearts.
Dumbarton failed to clear Callum Paterson’s cross ball and the onrushing winger stroked the bouncing ball into the net. If you thought that was frantic, the next few minutes brought two more goals and a penalty save.
First, Zeefuik claimed his second of the afternoon by tapping home Walker’s cross. Chris Kane reduced the deficit to 5-1 seconds later with a fine finish on the angle. Then came a Hearts penalty when Walker was fouled by Scott Linton inside the area. Zeefuik stepped up eager to complete his hat-trick, but Rogers produced two impressive saves to stop both the penalty and the Dutchman’s rebound attempt.
The game finished at a more gentle pace than previously. Keatings was desperate to etch his name on the scoresheet, however Rogers denied him on three occasions. The diminutive striker also managed to send a shot over the bar from around four yards out after Adam Eckersley’s low cross. It was Zeefuik who ended the day happiest due to a particularly memorable debut in Scotland.
Dumbarton (4-4-2): Rogers; Van Zanten, Graham, Mair, Linton; Gilhaney, Turner, Agnew Campbell; Nish, Kane.
55: Megginson for Campbell
70: Taggert for Nish
89: McCallum for Kane
Unused subs: Ewings, Fleming, Whitefield.
Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson, Eckersley; Walker, Buaben, Gomis, Nicholson; Zeefuik, Keatings.
66: Holt for Zeefuik
74: Pallardo for Buaben
80: King for Gomis
Unused subs: Gallacher, Oliver, McKay, McGhee.
Referee: John Beaton.