Maroon Memories: Hearts pipped to UEFA spot as Celtic rest players
A season which could have easily ended in turmoil came so close to ending in European success for Hearts.
They were only denided by a Kilmarnock team beating Celtic who had begun the game showing nine changes.
Craig Levein, the Hearts coach, said he could understand Martin O’Neill’s decision to rest some key players. “If I had a cup final coming up as my next game I might have done the same as Martin,” said Levein.
It was only back in November that Jim Jefferies left the club for Bradford City, which led to protests against chairman Chris Robinson and thousands of angry supporters gathering outside the ground.
However, such scenes were distant memories yesterday, as Levein’s side were given a standing ovation from their supporters after just failing to pip Kilmarnock for fourth place in the league, and the UEFA Cup spot that would bring.
Joining the team on the pitch at the end was Gilles Rousset, the Hearts goalkeeper who left the club yesterday after six years, while Stevie Fulton, who has been put on the transfer list, did his own lap of honour suggesting he doesn’t expect to be here next season.
As it turned out, it took two second-half goals from Stephane Adam and Colin Cameron to win the game, although that counted for nothing when the news came through that Kilmarnock had beaten Celtic.
Hearts had a great chance in only eight minutes when Kevin McKenna missed an easy back-post header and his ineptitude in front of goal was matched, from a Hearts point of view, by Adam, when the Frenchman shot weakly off the legs of Jamie Langfield, the Dundee goalkeeper, from only six yards.
Hearts were unlucky not to get a penalty on the stroke of half-time, when Mark Robertson handled Cameron’s shot in the box, an offence John Rowbotham didn’t seem to see.
Five minutes after the re-start, the home side should have sealed the win but, instead, Andy Kirk’s right foot shot from close in was turned away for a corner by Jamie Langfield.
Luckily for the striker the resultant corner from Steven Boyack led to Hearts taking the lead in what was a scrappy opening goal.
The Hearts’ midfielder played the ball in deep and, in a free-for-all within the six yard box, Adam bundled the ball in from close range.
That could have been the signal for Dundee to simply cave in but Ivano Bonetti’s side did try to get at least a draw from the game, but any such thoughts they had were extinguished with twenty minutes left.
Six Hearts players were involved in a move which was started and finished by Cameron, who ended up cracking home a magnificent volley from 12 yards out, which won all three points for the home side.