Writer: Tactful Sheik
Date:Wednesday January 2 2008
Tannadice Park, Dundee
It was a match that should never have taken place, after the death of Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell last weekend - but the Dundee United players still managed to approach the game in a professional manner, despite the difficult circumstances.
Hearts have struggled in the SPL in recent months, losing their last 5 consecutive league matches and failing to win since the 11th of November, when they beat Aberdeen 4-1.
Defeats from Falkirk, Saint Mirren, Caley Thistle and a lucky 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table side Gretna, mean confidence among the Tynecastle players is running low.
Although, when things aren't going your way and your side is struggling to find the back of the net, you want to play Dundee United.
Many times in the past, Dundee United have gifted all 3 points to a struggling opposition side or have gifted a hat-trick to a player who has taking criticism for his lack of goals... You just have to look at the recent results between Dundee United and Gretna!
However, for once favourites Dundee United managed to win out 4-1, but it was a result which flattered Craig Levein's side, in a match where Hearts had THREE players sent-off and Barry Robson scored a hat-trick.
United took a controversial lead, after referee Alan Freeland judged that Robbie Neilson's mis-kicked clearance was a pass back, after Hearts keeper Steve Banks caught the ball.
Captain Barry Robson proceeded to give the home side a 1-0 lead, by blasting the resultant indirect free-kick into the top corner of the net, after a layoff by defender Lee Wilkie.
Although, Hearts never let the heads go down and deservedly equalised with 10 minutes remaining in the 1st half, when the United defence failed to deal with a Hearts corner from Michael Stewart.
Stewart's corner was headed across goal by Marius Zaliukas and Christophe Berra was on-hand at the back post to back it 1-1.
It was a far more dramatic 2nd half, as indiscipline among the Hearts ranks resulted in 3 red cards and Dundee United capitalised with 3 further goals.
In the 67th minute, Marius Zaliukas was the 1st player to be sent-off for violent conduct, after throwing a punch at United defender Lee Wilkie.
Then, there was confusion among both sets of players, as Dundee United were awarded a penalty, after the assistant referee had a word with Alan Freeland.
It's believed the penalty was awarded because Zaliukas's swipe at Wilkie came inside the area, whilst the ball was still in play - but Robson was unfazed by the events surrounding the spot-kick and cooley slotted home to make it 2-1.
Barry Robson then set up Noel Hunt from an 82nd minute free-kick to make it 3-1, as United started to dominate with their extra player advantage.
28-year-old Robson, who has recently been linked with a £1million move to Celtic, eventually completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute, again from the penalty spot, after Lee Wallace committed a professional foul when Robson was clear through on goal.
Wallace became the 2nd Hearts player to see red for that foul and Michael Stewart joined him in the final moments of the match, after a clash with the Hearts supporters resulted in a 2nd yellow card.
Manager Craig Levein gave a starting debut to defender Danny Grainger, who joined Dundee United on a 3-year deal from Gretna and the 21-year-old repaid his new boss with an impressive performance.
Other new signings midfielder Daniel Swanson and striker Eric Odhiambo were named as United substitutes, but both made an appearance in the later stages of the 2nd half, Swanson replacing David Robertson and Odhiambo replacing Willo Flood.
Dundee United 4-1 Hearts
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Date:Wednesday January 2 2008
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