Hearts got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Dundee this afternoon.
Isma’s first-half goal was enough to hand the Jambos all three points in match that they dominated from start to finish.
Ian Cathro made three changes to the side that lost in midweek to St Johnstone. Liam Smith filled in for the injured Lennard Sowah, Arnaud Djoum returned from a spell on the sidelines to replace Bjorn Johnsen while Prince Buaben came in for Tasos Avolinitis.
Hearts were completely dominant during the opening ten minutes, spraying the ball about and stretching their opponents but the final killer ball was missing, with both Jamie Walker and Isma very nearly getting on the end of over-hit passes inside the Dundee box.
The deadlock was broken after 13 minutes with the Jambos’ pressure finally paying off. Don Cowie’s clever through ball saw Isma skip away from Paul McGowan’s sliding challenge to drill low past Scott Bain from the edge of the six-yard box, and although Darren O’Dea attempted to make a clearance on the line, he only helped carry the ball over it.
Cowie nearly turned provider nine minutes later, getting to the byline and crossing from the right straight to Isma, but the striker’s fresh air swipe meant he completely missed the ball when it looked like contact would’ve resulted in a certain goal.
Hearts continued to overrun the midfield, causing Dundee untold problems inside their own half. Walker cut through the middle of the park just before the half hour mark but his shot on goal was tame and straight at Bain.
It should’ve been 2-0 after 39 minutes. The mercurial Cowie ran past three Dundee players at the edge of the box to send over a ball to the unmarked Djoum, but from eight-yards out his header was brilliantly saved by Bain, who was at full stretch to keep the ball out of the bottom corner.
Dundee came so very close to equalising before the half was out. Tom Hateley’s 25-yard free-kick was curled into the box and although Hamilton saw it late, due to a clutch of bodies running past his line of vision, he was able to fling himself to his left to touch the ball onto the post.
Dundee came out fighting in the second-half but it was Hearts who had the first chance of the second period. Walker flicked the ball into the path of Alex Tziolis at the edge of the box but the Greek’s low drive was straight down Bain’s throat.
Hearts nearly threw it all away just after the hour mark when Andraz Struna passed straight to Dundee substitute Craig Wighton, and he was able to brush past Krystian Nowak into the box but screwed his shot horribly wide, despite being one-one-one with Hamilton.
A slice of luck nearly doubled Hearts’ lead in the 70th minute. Isma held off his man to cut inside and shoot towards goal but a massive deflection off the back of substitute Malaury Martin sent the ball in the opposite direction, however Bain managed to change his footing and smother the ball at his right-hand post.
The remainder of the game was short on goalmouth action with neither side able to impose any real authority in the other’s box. Nonetheless, an important win and three points for Hearts who now travel to Rugby Park on Friday for their final pre-split match.
Hearts: Hamilton, L.Smith, Buaben, Nowak, Struna, Tziolis, Kitchen, Cowie, Djoum (Martin, 59'), Walker (Currie, 64'), Isma (Johnsen, 89'). Subs: Noring, Avlonitis, Beith, Choulay.
Dundee: Bain, Holt, Vincent, O'Dea, Hateley, O'Hara, McGowan, Haber, Ojamaa (Wighton, 58'), Kerr, Higgins. Subs: Mitchell, Ross, Dryden, Smith, Gomis.
Referee: Crawford Allan
Top Man: Prince Buaben