Kyle strike enough as Hearts break Dons

Seven yellow cards were shown by referee Mike Tumilty in a bruising
Scottish Premier League encounter, with Dons assistant manager
Scott Leitch sent to the stand late on for venting his
frustrations. The Dons lined up against a Hearts side immediately
above them in the league table with four changes after their 2-0
defeat to Inverness before the International break. Chris Maguire,
boosted by his stunning goal for Scotland Under-21s against
Iceland, returned from suspension to replace Darren Mackie in the
starting XI. The break from action allowed injured trio Paul
Hartley, Sone Aluko and Andrius Velicka to return to action, the
latter making his Dons bow after his loan move from Rangers. The
visitors made three changes, with Marius Zaliukas returning as a
contractual dispute showed signs of easing. Spanish duo Ruben
Palazuelos and Suso Santana also returned to action for the Jambos.
Jim Jefferies’ men were first to threaten after four minutes, Kyle
getting on the end of a Santana cross, but Dons keeper Mark Howard
was happy to watch as the ball sailed into the stand. Aluko showed
the first flash of his creative abilities after eight minutes as he
strode forward from his own half, and picked out Maguire on the
right. His cross narrowly evaded both Velicka and Scott Vernon. At
the other end, Jambos striker Calum Elliot saw his shot from the
edge of the area crash off Howard’s right post just a minute later.
Just after the quarter-hour mark, Kevin Kyle and Zander Diamond
clashed in an aerial challenge, earning the Hearts striker a
talking-to from referee Mike Tumilty. Kyle continued to remonstrate
with Diamond, incensing the home support, but no further action was
taken. Hearts had a chance when Santana took advantage of an Andrew
Considine error to force a save from Howard. The game was starting
to warm up nicely, and Hearts Darren Barr became the first name to
enter the book for a cynical foul on Aluko, and Rudi Skacel quickly
followed for scything down Maguire. Maguire also earned a booking
himself shortly afterwards. A nice link-up on the right between
Vernon and full-back Ross Jack then saw the former put in a low
cross to the near post, which Marian Kello claimed under pressure
from Velicka. In injury time, Maguire shot narrowly wide from 18
yards after being played in by Hartley, and the half ended with
Dons keeper Mark Howard receiving treatment after he was challenged
strongly. Hearts took the lead within moments of the restart. Kyle
had become a target for the home support following his clash with
Diamond, but silenced the crowd as he threw himself full-length to
head Elliott’s cross beyond Howard. The goalkeeper had clearly not
recovered from the knock he suffered on the stroke of half-time,
though, as he was replaced by Jamie Langfield after 54 minutes.
Three minutes later, Dons boss Mark McGhee used the second of his
substitutes, throwing on Mackie in place of Velicka, who had been
making his first appearance since suffering a cruciate ligament
injury with Bristol City over a year ago. The physical element of
the match continued, with Kyle picking up a yellow card for
persistent fouling, and Zaliukas joining him for a crunching
challenge on Maguire. With 20 minutes remaining, sub keeper
Langfield also required treatment as he stretched to push Darren
Barr’s cross away from the sliding Skacel. The Dons began to push
forward in search of a leveller, but that left them exposed at the
back and they had Considine to thank for keeping them in the game
when he blocked Kyle’s close-range effort after a Santana cutback.
Their frustration was clear to see as Diamond became the latest to
be cautioned after a crunching late tackle on Elliott. Still it was
Hearts who looked the more likely to score, and Jack had to be
alert to head a Kyle header from a Skacel corner off the line. Dons
substitute Ryan Fraser became the final player to pick up a card,
and protests from the home dugout saw assistant boss Leitch sent to
the stand.