Football: Sorry Hearts hit rock bottom

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The Independent Online
HOW THE mighty have fallen. Heart of Midlothian, the Scottish Cup holders, the club that gave everyone else hope by keeping pace with Celtic and Rangers last season, are now tasting life at the other end of the League.

While the Glasgow giants continue their annual title battle, the epic deeds of last season at Tynecastle are being submerged by waves of self- doubt. Hearts are bottom of the Premier League after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Dundee.

Their situation can be highlighted by the fact they have to still to score their first goal of 1999. Their latest defeat gave Dundee four wins out of four against Jim Jefferies' side this season and, although another three clubs could be considered part of the relegation battle, Dunfermline, Dundee United and Dundee appear to possess the necessary fighting qualities.

That view was endorsed by Jefferies, who said: "We are trying to play too much football and it's costing us. I don't think Dundee played better than us but they had the players to fight and dig out a result."

Hearts' predicament has not been helped by the sales of David Weir and Neil McCann, two of their most influential players. News of Hearts' defeat was received with joy at Easter Road, where Hibernian were beating Airdrie 3-0 to take another step towards the First Division title.

The Hibs' fans, who saw their side relegated last season while Hearts lifted the Cup, would gladly forego the Edinburgh derby match for another season if it meant that the clubs replaced each other in their respective leagues.

Dundee United and Dunfermline demonstrated the battling qualities that could preserve their status, with United securing an unlikely 1-0 win at Ibrox against Rangers, the League leaders, while Dunfermline won by the same margin at home to St Johnstone.