Hearts 0 Aberdeen 1: Lovell adds hurt to broken Hearts

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The Independent Football

Three mutineers hijacked a press conference seven weeks ago. One has been dumped, the other was bumped - to the bench - while the third was rewarded with the captaincy. Craig Gordon may have taken the armband but he could not hold the ball when it mattered yesterday as Hearts took self-inflicted wounds to a new level.

Gordon sealed yet another bizarre week at Tynecastle by spilling a shot that allowed Steve Lovell to snatch an 87th-minute winner for Aberdeen. It ruined the Scotland goalkeeper's debut as captain. Hearts are sinking under Vladimir Romanov's regime. Pursuit of even a Champions' League place now looks in vain after a fifth home defeat this season.

Aberdeen have assumed the role of principal rival to Rangers for second place and Jimmy Calderwood's side set themselves up for next weekend's encounter at Pittodrie between the pair. "It should be a sellout," said the Aberdeen manager.

Romanov's capricious decision-making claimed two managers last season and that backdrop prompted the revolt in October when Steven Pressley, Paul Hartley and Gordon made "dressing-room unrest" public knowledge. Pressley's status as club captain could not prevent him being jettisoned last Saturday - his contract ripped up - and Hartley also faced a disciplinary hearing in midweek.

The Scotland midfielder was dropped yesterday. Hartley spent 64 minutes on the bench before the coach Valdas Ivanauskas - sorry, Romanov - decided to let him come in from the cold. The Hearts fans had chanted Hartley's name all day and he added a zest and inventiveness that was previously missing.

"It was a tactical move to leave Hartley on the bench but it was my choice," insisted Ivanauskas. Hartley even had the ball in the net but was ruled offside. However, the midfielder fears he may soon be following Pressley out the door.

Yesterday's denouement was not one for his video collection. The Lithuanian forward Andrius Velicka had squandered two fine chances for Hearts just before Lovell struck. The substitute pounced after Aberdeen launched a ruthless counterattack which saw Chris Clark's quick throw-in zip to Jamie Smith, who then set up Scott Severin's raking shot. Gordon could not hold it and Lovell seized on the rebound.

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