HEARTS boss Valdas Ivanauskas insisted that Craig Gordon’s omission from the starting line-up at Tannadice was due to illness and not as a result of last week’s disciplinary meeting.
The Hearts keeper was benched for the SPL match against Dundee United, the club claiming that the 23-year-old was suffering from flu and was unfit to take his place between the sticks.
However Gordon warmed up before kick-off wearing a short-sleeved shirt and proceeded to sprint down the track and into his strip late in the game when it looked as through his replacement, Steve Banks, would have to leave the field injured.
Ivanauskas would not reveal the exact nature of the illness, but said after the game: “He was feeling not so good in the morning and we did not want to take any risks because we have the derby game coming up.
“I only found out on the morning of the game after breakfast. We deserved the victory. I was pleased with the fighting spirit. Dundee have won something like their last five games and it is not an easy place to come.”
The news that Gordon would miss out stunned the Hearts supporters almost as much as David Robertson’s dipping long-range effort did their stand-in keeper with just two minutes on the clock, Banks managing to get down to his left just in time to palm the shot away.
The Tynecastle side had strong claims for a penalty kick just seconds later when Andrius Velicka went down in the box under a challenge from Derek Stillie only for referee Charlie Richmond to wave them away.
United came close to opening their account in 12 minutes when Collin Samuel floated the ball in at head height for Lee Mair at the back post, but the defender just couldn’t connect.
Hearts came even closer in 28 minutes after Andrius Velicka was fouled almost at the corner flag. Hartley took the free-kick and sent it right into the danger area and when Marius Zaliukas met it first time, it looked like the visitors would break the deadlock. However United keeper Derek Stillie pulled off a stunning save from the first effort and collected from Zaliukas’s second attempt – a header this time – from the loose ball.
The Jambos again had a decent shout for a spot-kick turned down, this time when Mark Kerr handled the ball while trying to control and clear Robbie Neilson’s cross from the right.
Hearts had a glorious chance to open their account when Michal Pospisil back-heeled into the path of Velicka but Stillie was equal to the effort and palmed it away and when Bruno Aguiar latched onto the loose ball he could only fire it high over the bar.
However, they finally got the goal they craved nine minutes after the restart and it came from the spot when a clear handball from Garry Kenneth this time left Richmond with no other option than to award a penalty.
Hartley stepped up to take it and drove the ball at pace low into the net to Stillie’s right, the midfielder wheeling away to the dug-out to celebrate with Gordon. They could have doubled their lead in 76 minutes when Hartley, realising that sub Edgaras Jankasukas was in an offside position, opted instead to feed the ball into the patch of Pospisil. The Czech hitman beat the keeper with his low effort, only to see it trickle just wide of Stillie’s right-hand post.
Gordon almost had to make a late appearance when Banks injured himself trying to stop an effort from Robson which crashed off the crossbar but the stand-in keeper recovered in time to make a superb stop from and other Robson effort, this time pushing the United player’s free-kick round the post with one hand.
Dundee Utd: Stillie, Mair, Kerr, Robson, Duff, Robb McCracken 33), Conway, Kenneth, Samuel, Robertson, Goodwillie (Smith 67). Unused subs: McLean, Archibald, Cameron, Burnett, Watson
Hearts: Banks, Neilson, Fyssas, Aguiar (brellier 81), Hartley, Pospisil, Mikoliunas (Barasa 51), Berra, Zaliukas, Velicka (Jankauskas 71), Driver. Unused subs: Gordon, McCann, Bednar, Wallace
Referee: Charlie Richmond