Michael Smith’s own goal consigned Hearts to their first pre-season defeat at Queen of the South.
The Northern Irishman could do little to prevent Stephen Dobbie’s cross hitting his shin and rolling into the net in the first half.
A strong team from Tynecastle created several chances throughout the 90 minutes but found themselves too often off target. Having beaten Arbroath, Dumbarton and Partick Thistle in previous friendlies, this 1-0 defeat will act as a reminder that nothing in Scottish football is straightforward.
Championship side Queens recovered from a slow start to match their Premiership guests in many areas of the field. Some of those in maroon did not impose themselves as might have been expected on the night, but their opponents in blue were gritty and resilient to a man.
Questions surrounded the future of the Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee before kick-off after an approach from Indian Super League club Pune City. They want talks with him about their managerial vacancy and the Edinburgh club will not stand in his way.
MacPhee was already experiencing something akin to an Indian summer given the balmy air enveloping Dumfries last night. Gary Naysmith’s Queen of the South side started this match on the back foot against an energetic visiting team from the Capital.
Kyle Lafferty, Steven Naismith, Steven MacLean and Zdenek Zlamal were all missing from the Hearts line-up, but there was still plenty experience on display. Midfielder Olly Lee’s hooked effort from Michael Smith’s cross went bouncing wide on 17 minutes before fellow midfielder Olly Bozanic sent a 20-yard shot over the Queens crossbar.
Aidan Keena’s instinctive attempt on the turn then nestled in the arms of the home goalkeeper, Jack Leighfield, and Bozanic tried from distance once again only to see the ball land on the top of the net.
Queen of the South first threatened on 23 minutes. Lyndon Dykes dispossessed Christophe Berra 25 yards out but the loose ball was volleyed wide by Dobbie.
Berra should then have broken the stalemate at the opposite end from Bozanic’s corner, however the unmarked defender glanced his header narrowly past the far post.
Those in maroon were made to rue their profligacy 11 minutes before half-time. Dobbie’s cross from the right landed towards the back post, where Hearts defender Smith inadvertently knocked it past trialist goalkeeper Kevin Silva and into the net.
The second half began with Queens pushing for a second goal and aiming to get runners in behind the three-man Hearts defence of John Souttar, Peter Haring and Berra. Dobbie stung Silva’s palms with a powerful effort from a tight angle and, in the technical area, Naysmith voiced plenty encouragement for his players.
English striker Uche Ikpeazu looked occasionally menacing for Hearts when running with the ball. He threatened to dribble into a shooting position, although a defender would frequently thwart him just at the last moment.
Wingers Jake Mulraney and Danny Amankwaa entered the fray as the Hearts manager Craig Levein tried to inject some panache and speed into his team. Only this week he warned Amankwaa to improve his fitness levels after seeing him behind his colleagues in pre-season training.
Lee saw another rising shot sail over Leighfield’s bar entering the final 20 minutes of what was becoming an evermore feisty encounter. The Dumfries side were determined not to surrender their lead – and they might have increased it on 72 minutes.
A long ball found substitute Declan Tremble galloping in behind and he lofted a finish over the advancing Silva which also cleared the crossbar. That seemed to jolt the visitors and Haring’s header from a corner rose only slightly above the target.
The game ended without an equaliser, and Hearts have just one more friendly – at Forfar on Saturday – before starting their Betfred Cup campaign away at Cove Rangers next Wednesday.
Queen of the South (4-4-2): Leighfield; Mercer (Gourlay 72), Doyle (Fordyce 80), Trialist, Marshall; Bell (Trialist 65), Jacobs, Harkins (Tremble 65), Stirling (Harvey 80); Dykes, Dobbie (Murray 65). Unused subs: Henderson, Trialist.
Hearts (3-4-1-2): Silva; Souttar, Haring, Berra; M Smith, Lee (Callachan 82), Edwards, Garuccio (Mulraney 58); Edwards (Amankwaa 58); Ikpeazu, Keena (Burns 72). Unused subs: Mason, L Smith, Petkov.
Referee: Andrew Dallas.