Only one man raged more than Craig Levein inside Dens Park on Saturday. The Hearts captain Christophe Berra openly admitted he was angry after Dundee’s Kerr Waddell scored two free headers, both from corners, to win the game for the hosts.
The normally placid Berra became furious inside the away dressing-room at full-time. Levein made clear his exasperation at conceding twice from set-pieces by failing to properly mark Dundee’s 19-year-old centre-back. Berra, a central defender like his manager was, felt the same frustration and left no-one in doubt about his feelings, either.
Waddell converted Kevin Holt’s corner seconds before half-time to put the hosts ahead. Hearts had replaced centre-back Aaron Hughes with Prince Buaben after only seven minutes due to a calf injury. Hughes was to mark Waddell at set-plays. After Kyle Lafferty’s 70th-minute equaliser, the youngster rose to power home the winner in the third minute of stoppage-time – this time from Paul McGowan’s delivery.
Those were Waddell’s first senior goals having come through Dundee’s youth academy and his joy was undeniable. For Hearts, they led simply to serious indignation as Levein – who gave 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane his debut – suffered the first defeat of his second reign.
“I’m raging,” said Berra. “In the first half, we weren’t great and we conceded from a set-piece. We took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and their keeper was making good saves. So, to concede from a corner at the end of the game is just schoolboy stuff.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier in a changing-room afterwards. The manager was angry but I was angrier, to be honest. I was going absolutely crazy. I was fuming. I just hate losing and I hate conceding goals.
“Last week it was an avoidable goal against Partick Thistle and against Hamilton it was the same. It was too simple, both goals we lost at Dundee. And they were exactly the same type of goals. There were no challenges as he headed it into the net. It’s just not good enough. If you don’t do the basics right that’s what happens. We need to learn quickly. If you want to be successful in football matches you have to fight and you have to defend set-pieces. It’s basic.”
What irked Hearts even more was the fact they looked the more likely to win this affair after the interval. Esmael Goncalves had rattled the crossbar before Lafferty’s equaliser was presented on a plate with 20 minutes remaining.
Dundee’s Tunisian forward Sofien Moussa decided to play a 40-yard backpass to his goalkeeper, Scott Bain. Lafferty sprinted in to touch the ball past the advancing Bain and convert from an acute angle. He then raced to the technical area to hug Levein and his assistant, Austin MacPhee. Both men have given unstinting support to the Northern Irishman as he battles a gambling addiction, so the very public ‘thank you’ was a nice touch.
Sensing the chance for a winner, Hearts continued pushing. A Dundee counter-attack ended with the visiting goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin pushing substitute A-Jay Leitch-Smith’s shot for a corner. From McGowan’s resultant delivery, Waddell rose unchallenged to head the decisive goal beyond a helpless McLaughlin.
“I don’t think our keeper had many saves to make in the second half,” said Berra. “In the first half he had a few crosses to take but you expect that. They weren’t cutting us open. If any team was going to win in the second half it was us. So to lose it like that made me so angry.
“We didn’t defend badly but we didn’t deal with set-pieces. It’s a huge part of the game and that’s why I said a few harsh words after the game. We have to do the basics right. A few of us spoke. I wasn’t the only one.
“It seems the older I get, the angrier I get. I just hate conceding goals. I hate losing. It’s not like we are being carved open. It’s just concentration. Losing a winning goal like that from a corner spoils your weekend.”
Having been similarly outraged by Moussa’s carelessness for Lafferty’s goal, the Dundee manager Neil McCann was much happier at full-time. He substituted the striker and made clear his anger before experiencing opposite emotions when Waddell became a heroic saviour.
“I took Moussa off because I thought he lost his composure. He made a huge mistake and unfortunately for him Lafferty came up with a super goal,” said McCann. “It was the first thing I addressed in the changing-room after the game.
“I told him it was unacceptable and that it was a crazy decision, but we’re trying to build something. It’s a team game and you’ll make individual errors, but at some point he’ll dig out a team-mate. It wasn’t a firing squad. He was told I wasn’t happy with it but his team-mates rallied round him.
“I’m not going to sit here and kid anyone on by saying the second half was comfortable as Hearts really pushed us hard. We weathered the storm and got our rewards after pushing two up top, rather than sitting back looking for a point. That’s not what we’re about here. We want to win games and push ourselves up the table.
“Set-pieces have cost us this season so I’m pleased we’ve scored from two of our own. And the young boy Waddell, my goodness, he’s so powerful. He showed his determination to get in and put his head on it.”