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.