Stevenson stars in Hearts win

Ryan Stevenson scored twice as Hearts climbed to sixth in the

SPL with a 2-1 win over Dundee United at Tynecastle.

In a match where Rudi Skacel was supposed to be the central

protagonist on his Tynecastle return, Stevenson put Hearts in front

after 15 minutes and added a second from the penalty spot after 31

minutes.

Keith Watson pulled a goal back after 57 minutes but United

could not find a second as Hearts climbed above their opponents

with victory in their final home match of a tumultuous calendar

year.

The most popular man on the pitch was, curiously, a visiting

player as Skacel started for an unchanged United.

The Czech international’s final appearance of his second spell

at Hearts was the 5-1 Scottish Cup final defeat of Hibernian on May

19 and he selected squad number 51 at United, while he was the

subject of an ovation from the home faithful in the 51st

minute.

It was the second time Skacel had faced Hearts this term since

moving to United. He was withdrawn from the Scottish Communities

League Cup quarter-final penalty shootout by United boss Peter

Houston.

From the first corner, Skacel tackled Stevenson and cleared, his

opponent going to ground in search of a penalty, with appeals

ignored.

Moments later Stevenson scored, benefiting from John Sutton

occupying the attentions of two defenders and Brian McLean’s

failure to clear a ball from deep. The ball broke for Stevenson,

who simply sidefooted in.

Jamie MacDonald made an instinctive save when Jon Daly met Barry

Douglas’ free-kick from the left and McLean’s torrid afternoon

continued as he could only hit the post with the follow up from two

yards out.

Dylan McGowan won a penalty when he was bundled over by Willo

Flood trying to meet brother Ryan’s long throw. Stevenson took the

resulting spot-kick and sent Cierzniak the wrong way to score.

McLean headed over from a Flood cross as United resumed on the

attack and Hearts were repelling an aerial bombardment when there

was the bizarre spectacle of a Tynecastle chorus of “Rudi” complete

with the ‘we-are-not-worthy’ bowing gesture.

Skacel acknowledged with a clap of his hands during a break in

play before having a role as United replied. A Douglas free-kick

was only half-cleared, Skacel sliced a shot into the ground and

Watson turned to fire into the top corner beyond MacDonald.

In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Russell had a chance to

equalise when the ball evaded Marius Zaliukas, but he could only

fire over as Hearts finished victorious.