How Dundee outfought Hearts to drag themselves back into Championship title race

A spirited Dundee display saw them inflict a second league defeat of the season on Hearts and propel themselves firmly back into the Championship title race.

Jordan McGhee heads Dundee's first goal against his old club Hearts.
Jordan McGhee heads Dundee's first goal against his old club Hearts.

Former Tynecastle defender Jordan McGhee – now a Dundee midfielder – and striker Danny Mullen scored in the first half before Andy Irving pulled the ragged visitors back into contention. Dundee substitute Jonathan Afolabi’s late penalty completed the 3-1 win.

The three points took the Tayside club back to within five points of league-leaders Hearts, with captain Charlie Adam creating the first two goals and controlling much of the midfield play.

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Michael Smith’s absence raised obvious questions after Hearts announced earlier in the day that a second player had tested positive for Covid 19. Jamie Brandon stepped in at right-back for a game between two teams in rich goalscoring form.

Hearts had struck 42 times in 16 games this season prior to kick-off, with Dundee counting 28 in 15 matches. Steven Naismith hit a midweek hat-trick for the visitors and Osman Sow entered this fixture with six goals in his last three outings for Dundee.

The stage was set for an open encounter, particularly in light of the 6-2 scoreline in Hearts’ favour when they last met in October. It was clear within the opening minute that this would also be a physical contest when Dundee’s Shaun Byrne clattered into Steven Naismith and was promptly booked.

Two impressive saves by Craig Gordon stopped an Adam free-kick and a shot from Danny Mullen as the hosts made a purposeful start. Adam’s next contribution was a vicious left-footed cross which McGhee headed powerfully past Gordon to open the scoring on 13 minutes.

Dundee’s aggression and tenacity continued unsettling their guests and underpinned their command of the first half. They scored again ten minutes before the interval and again Adam’s craft was the catalyst.

The former Scotland midfielder knocked the ball through Peter Haring’s legs on the left and clipped a cross towards the six-yard box. Mullen arrived for a downward header which Gordon couldn’t keep out.

Haring was replaced by Irving at half-time with Hearts in dire need of inspiration from somewhere. Within nine minutes, he had halved the deficit with an inswinging free-kick. The delivery from the right flank eluded everyone in the penalty area and bounced into Jack Hamilton’s net.

Robbie Neilson’s players instantly looked reinvigorated but Dundee continued competing. A 67th-minute breakaway presented Mullen with a chance, only for Brandon to intervene with a superb piece of defending for Hearts.

At the opposite end, Hamilton thwarted a certain equaliser by emerging to block Naismith’s low prodded attempt.

Then came an even better chance for the Tynecastle side when substitute Euan Henderson lofted a cutback onto Stephen Kinglsey’s head. The onrushing defender, however, nodded over the crossbar from eight yards.

Dundee secured victory seven minutes from the end with Afolabi’s penalty, awarded for a foul by Christophe Berra on Lee Ashcroft. It was a result they richly deserved.

Dundee (4-3-3): Hamilton; Elliott, Ashcroft, Fontaine, Marshall; McGhee, Byrne, Adam (Robertson 76); McGowan, Sow (Kerr 81), Mullen (Afolabi 68).

Unused subs: Ferrie, Forster, McDaid, Anderson.

Hearts (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Brandon, Halkett, Berra, Kingsley; Haring (Irving 46), Halliday; Lee, Naismith, Walker; Wighton (Henderson 52).

Unused subs: Stewart, Roberts, Frear, Moore, Popescu.

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