London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2003-04--> All for 20040501
<-Page <-Team Sat 01 May 2004 Dundee United 0 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Moira Gordon auth-> Mark Ritchie
3 of 007 Mark de Vries 4 ;Andy Webster 72 L SPL A

On-song Hearts in yes vote for Europe



De Vries 3; Webster 72

A DISALLOWED goal and a penalty claim that was waved aside may have left Dundee United manager Ian McCall seething, but it left Hearts all-but guaranteed the unofficial title of best of the rest behind the Old Firm.

Given a vastly superior goal difference, the capital side went into the match knowing that a win, allied with a defeat for Dunfermline at Parkhead this afternoon, would leave the Fife club needing to collect maximum points and overhaul an outrageously comfortable goal difference, to deny Craig Levein’s team third place.

Maybe the realisation that such a scenario would render the remaining matches meaningless was what led to the sporadic moments of uncharacteristic mayhem in the visitors’ ranks, as they seemed to do all they could to undermine their own chances of victory and leave themselves plenty to play for in the final few games.

Manager Levein shuffled his pack, moving the increasingly versatile Kevin McKenna to the unfamiliar left midfield berth, with young Jo Hamill patrolling the opposite wing. But if they were surprises, the real first-half confusion came from the usually reliable backline.

The breakdown in communication between the central pairing of Steven Pressley and Andy Webster, for long periods of the first half in particular, was wholly uncharacteristic. Yet, having taken the lead as early as the third minute, and up against a make-shift and ultimately punchless United strikeforce, in Colin Samuel and Jason Scotland, they should have been a lot more assured.

The opener came when United decided to air their defensive bloopers first, making it far too easy for a ball to be threaded through to Hearts top scorer Mark De Vries, who got his leg around Chris Innes, tracking back, and stabbed the ball into the middle of the goal.

At that stage it was still far from a fait accompli, given United’s impressive home record which has seen them unbeaten on their own turf since November. But it did little the galvanise Hearts, who have been favourites for third place for some time but have made heavy weather of getting across the finish line in recent weeks.

In fact, the home side appeared to have equalised two minutes later when Innes was allowed to rise unchallenged in the six yard box to send a downward header from a Mark Wilson free-kick beyond young Craig Gordon. As Alan Maybury and De Vries pointed fingers at each other and argued over who had been most negligent in marking, the nearside assistant referee came to their rescue, declaring the effort offside.

"Decisions went against us but I’m too angry to say anything about them," bristled McCall. "But they were poor, poor decisions. I thought we scored a perfectly good goal and then didn’t get what I thought was a stonewall penalty."

That spot-kick claim came in the 18th minute when Webster and Jason Scotland clashed in the box as the Trinidadian homed in on goal. A poor clearance kick from Gordon trickled under Pressley’s foot and as Scotland pounced and harried in on goal, he was only denied by the timely intervention of Webster. The home fans appealed for a penalty but the referee disagreed and on first impressions appeared to have called it correct.

Levein and Webster agreed with his judgment call, but Scotland insisted he merited a penalty and Webster was lucky to remain on the field as last man. "The guy clipped me first and then got the ball," he said. "He clipped me from behind and it was a definite penalty."

But it was just another decision which denied Dundee United and allowed Hearts to grow in confidence. Had Ian McCall been blessed with the presence of regular strikers, Jim McIntyre and Andy McLaren, it would probably not have taken them long to avenge the situation, but despite their pressure, the finish didn’t materialise. The best effort in the remainder of the first half coming when Samuel rose above a static defence but sent an impotent header weakly wide.

"I thought we played very well and played all the football in the game. In the first five minutes, Hearts started well, but for the next 40 I thought we dominated," said McCall.

Levein accepted that the opposition has enjoyed the majority of possession but still believed his team to be "comfortable winners. I can remember a Billy Dodds shot in the second half but everything else came from set pieces."

Hearts showed them how it should be done, when they clattered them with a sucker-punch in the 72nd minute. Webster, the player cast as villain by United in the penalty incident, rubbed salt in the wounds when he finished off a cutback from Scott Severin.

If defeat was hard to swallow that ensured the bitter aftertaste.

Taken from the Scotsman

<-Page <-Team Sat 01 May 2004 Dundee United 0 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © 2004 |