Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was, quite justifiably, frustrated with the way his team defended in the second half against a Dundee side desperate to take something from the game.
Danny Mullen and Zak Rudden were a busy presence but, looking back at the way the two goals came about, the Hearts rearguard will know they should have done better to snuff out the danger before it really materialized. Instead they were slow to react to the danger, and looked reactive and ragged rather than proactive and disciplined.
Having conceded five at Ibrox, giving cause for alarm at how easily they capitulated for the four in the second half, the two post-interval goals they lost to the relegation battlers last night only heightened concerns, especially with a team like Livingston heading to Gorgie on cup duty this weekend.
There is no doubt that the absence of Craig Halkett and Michael Smith has hit them hard, with the former a dominating presence in the middle of John Souttar and Stephen Kingsley, prior to his injury. It has forced Neilson to throw Toby Sibbick into the fray earlier and more regularly than he was planning when he signed him from Barnsley in January.
In the first half, there was a degree of composure aided by the return of John Souttar but pressed by a hungry Dundee in the second 45, far too many of Hearts defensive players switched off.
Barrie McKay’s goal quest
Since arriving at Hearts the playmaker has done everything but score and after suffering the nearest of near misses against Dundee he must be wondering if he is destined never to open his account.
In the first half, in particular, he proved his worth yet again, committing opponents with his creativity and positivity and was instrumental in his side’s goal, darting forward, and skipping past defenders before sending the perfect pass through to Ellis Simms.
While he is contributing in that way, his gaffer will not be too perturbed that he has not added goals to his repertoire, but it must be playing on the mind of the 28 year-old former Scotland cap and he will be replaying his 32nd minute effort back and wondering what else he could have done.
Latching onto a Peter Haring ball over the top, he brought it down beautifully before dinking it over the advancing Ian Lawlor. But just as it was about to cross the line, defender Ryan Sweeney got back to clear off the line to leave McKay frustrated and wondering when that elusive first goal is going to materialize.
New signings breathe new life into Dundee’s survival hopes
Dundee moved off the bottom of the table with only their second away victory in the Premiership and that first win in 10 league games has bolstered the belief that they can still avoid relegation.
Delighted with his team’s performance, Dundee manager James McPake will be especially pleased with the contributions of new arrivals Zak Rudden and Niall McGinn, who each contributed to the side’s potency.
Offloading Jason Cummings and Leigh Griffiths and bringing in Rudden to play off Danny Mullen injected new life into the side and, on this evidence, the pair of them are capable of causing problems for more than the Hearts defence, while McGinn’s pedigree was evident as he made the vital cross into the area for the winning goal.
One win does not guarantee Dundee’s survival but there were certainly enough on the display to suggest they are not willing to go down without a fight.
Robbie Neilson points finger at Hearts defending and ‘basic football’ errors in …
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