Hearts battled to a brave 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Tanandice on Sunday afternoon.
Juanma’s first-half penalty was all that separated the two sides, though Robbie Neilson’s side were in control for much of the game.
The Jambos lined up with three changes to the side that were held at home to Kilmarnock prior to the international break; in came Jordan McGhee for the suspended Callum Paterson while Miguel Pallardo and Danny Swanson replaced Morgaro Gomis and Jamie Walker who both moved to the bench.
Hearts started the more dominant side, looking very comfortable in possession. Swanson’s fifth minute corner found Igor Rossi at the back door and he picked out Blazej Augustyn in the middle, whose shot was shot blocked on the penalty spot.
Ten minutes later the Jam Tarts took the lead. Augustyn’s cross-field pass was expertly taken down by Sam Nicholson, who then darted into the box only to be brought down from behind by Blair Spittal. Juanma duly stepped up and slotted low beyond Luis Zwick and into the bottom left corner.
Though United came back into the game it was Hearts who had the next shot on target. Osman Sow showed some powerful running into the home box to get the United defence in a tither, teeing up Swanson to blast an effort straight at Zwick who gathered at the second attempt.
Zwick had to be at his best to deny Swanson again a few minutes later. Kuhl’s foul on Pallardo 25-yards out gave Swanson a set piece opportunity and he swerved a wonderful effort right down the throat of the Utd ‘keeper, who palmed over the bar.
Dundee United went close before half time when Neil Alexander spilled a cross from the left, but he recovered marvelously to make a block behind for a corner.
It could’ve been 2-0 only seven minutes into the restart. Sow again powered into the box before cutting back for Juanma, whose shot was deflected into no-mans land but with Nicholson closing in Zwick got down to make a brave block.
A well-worked Dundee Utd free kick saw Scott Fraser touch the ball to Aaron Kuhl, who flicked it up and hit a volley but the ball looped high over Alexander’s crossbar.
Hearts were forced into a double sub after 69 minutes when both Juwon Oshaniwa and Pallardo picked up injuries. They were replaced by Liam Smith and Gomis, with Walker an earlier substitution for Swanson.
The home side gave a timely reminder how dangerous they could be when Billy McKay took the ball with his back to goal, turned and curled low but Alexander pounced to his right to make the save.
WIth only minutes remaining Spittal received his marching orders for a second yellow, after bringing down Nicholson from behind.
Cramp seemed to be the order of the day as several Hearts players went down in pain, yet they battled bravely and held on for the victory, which puts the Gorgie boys back into third place and only six points off the top of the league.
Dundee United: Zwick, Dillon, Souttar, McKay, Rankin, McGowan, Durnan, Spittal, Fraser (Connolly, 76'), Kuhl, Bodul (Taggart, 46'). Subs: Szromnik, Murray, Telfer, Donaldson, H. Souttar.
Hearts: Alexander, McGhee, Augustyn, Rossi, Oshaniwa (L. Smith, 69'), Buaben, Pallardo (Gomis, 69'), Swanson (Walker, 53'), Nicholson, Juanma, Sow. Subs: Hamilton, Djoum, Zanatta, King.
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Top Man: Blazej Augustyn