Three things we learned from Dundee 0-1 Hearts
Mark Atkinson takes a look at three Hearts-related observations from Dens Park ...
Zdenek Zlamal had had a fairly quiet 80 minutes in the Hearts goal. He made a smart save from Dundee's Kenny Miller in the opening exchanges, but after that, it was crossing and kicking for him. Then Dundee came to life. The Czech stopper made an excellent stop from a net-bound Miller header and then acrobatically parried away a long-range Darren O'Dea effort. He dealt with a couple of late balls into his box too, ensuring Hearts left with all three points. Considering Zlamal has only just reclaimed the gloves from Colin Doyle, this was a confidence-boosting performance in an important match. It's hard to see Zlamal losing the No.1 berth now.
Defence comes to four
Hearts have flitted between a back-three and a back-four this season. Clevid Dikamona, Conor Shaughnessy and Michael Smith have filled in at centre-half in both systems, but Hearts look at their most impervious when the central-defensive unit of John Souttar and Christophe Berra are anchoring a back-four. Against Dundee, the whole defence - with Marcus Godinho and Ben Garuccio on the flanks - performed diligently, but Berra and Souttar were the stand-outs. Their partnership was cultivated last season and now that both men are fully fit for the remainder of this campaign, Hearts have a platform to build from. Using them as the lynchpins of back-four appears the best way forward now.
After the underwhelming performance and disappointing result at Partick, it was imperative that Hearts took a positive result from their trip to Tayside. How it came was secondary, as manager Craig Levein alluded to. The three points allows Hearts to take on the Jags in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on Tuesday with renewed vigour. Their place in the top six has been cemented and, furthermore, they are now joint-fourth and closing in on Europa League spots. Players and fans alike will go into next week feeling more positive about their challenge in both the league and cup.