Maroon Memories: De Vries seals place in Europe

Mark de Vries celebrates after scoring a header from Stephane Mahe's cross
Mark de Vries celebrates after scoring a header from Stephane Mahe's cross
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THERE may have been a bigger win at Ibrox with Rangers securing a 6-1 victory over Dunfermline to secure the SPL title, but the Hearts fans staged a party of their own at Tynecastle after victory over Dundee qualified them for Europe.

Match-winner Mark de Vries and his jubilant team-mates enjoyed a lap of honour alongside managerial duo Craig Levein and Peter Houston after a remarkable season which brought European football back to Edinburgh after three years.

Hearts, resplendent in new silver away shirts, were missing the elan of Jean-Louis Valois; Levein opting to blood youngster Joe Hamill on the far left of a midfield five.

Lee Mair found out in the 11th minute exactly how troublesome an opponent De Vries can be and, but for a few inches, it could have been to the visitors’ cost as Hearts constructed a move of alluring fluidity.

Graham Weir fed Joe Hamill on the left touchline and his first time pitch into the area saw the Dutchman arch away from Mair to send a diving header just shy of Julian Speroni’s post.

The pressure of fierce competition off, both sets of supporters settled back in their bucket seats in the Gorgie sunshine and enjoyed the to and fro of the game.

The Tynecastle surface, usually like the aftermath of an agricultural show at this stage of the season, was lush and conducive to possession football, and both teams appeared to be intent to play.

The posse of Dundee fans, who playfully taunted the home support with odes to Albert Kidd, were off their seats in the 16th minute but Steve Lovell failed to provide a tangible end result.

Gavin Rae played him in at the edge of the Hearts penalty box but his left-foot shot fell disappointingly wide as his team-mates squealed for the ball.

Had De Vries been able to negotiate his own sizeable feet the way he had negotiated Dundee’s off-side trap in the 42nd minute, Hearts may have had more to show for their first half territorial superiority. A lofted pass from Robbie Neilson left De Vries bearing down on goal. But the Tynecastle top scorer was left slapping the turf as the ball held up amongst his own legs and laces as he tried to cross for his lurking team-mates.

Form one top scorer to another, 27-goal Inverness marksman Dennis Wyness was paraded alongside fellow new recruit Paul Hartley in Hearts colours at half-time.

That excited the home crowd, as did a hopeful penalty claim just after the break.

A clearance from Mair left Nacho Novo nursing a sore hand – the little Spaniard was seen cradling his painful knuckles afterwards. However, no-one could genuinely argue it was hand playing ball and referee Willie Young certainly didn’t waste any time doing so either.

Still, Hearts were to be rewarded for their greater urgency and the decision to draft in Stephane Mahe was vindicated within seven minutes of his arrival. The Frenchman found the by-line and flighted in the most telling cross of the afternoon.

Talisman De Vries was there as ever, throwing himself at the ball to nod his 15th goal of a satisfying maiden season in Scotland.

Hearts: Moilanen, Maybury, Pressley, Severin, De Vries, Webster, Neilson, McCann, MacFarlane, Hamill, Weir.