Hearts steal the show

Aberdeen 1 Windass 1 Hearts 2 Johnston 81 ,Colquhon 84 Atten dance:12,200
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The Independent Online
THE new-look continental Hearts are the closest Aberdeen have come to European football this season. As the Dons prepare for next year's re-entry to the Uefa Cup they will do well to remember the harsh lesson in persistence they received yesterday.

Three weeks ago their manager, Roy Aitken, had asked for wins from the following three home games. They had completed two-thirds of his wish, but their inconsistent form this season meant they were due a defeat. Few could have predicted how it eventually materialised.

With a squad depleted through injury and suspension Hearts' priority was simple: huddle together in the box to protect themselves from the North-east chill and the Aberdeen attack. In practice the strategy lasted 45 seconds. When Billy Dodds cleared to Duncan Shearer, his fresh-air swipe left the unmarked Dean Windass to comfortably finish in his second consecutive game.

With hindsight, Hearts might agree that it was the best thing that could have happened. Forced to chase the equaliser, they played themselves back into the game. Steve Fulton took charge of the midfield. Alan Johnston, who eventually got the equaliser, had a cracking game against Stephen Glass, who is clearly not comfortable in his present left-back role.

Johnston was emulated by Joe Miller for Aberdeen. No one can question Billy Dodds work rate but one can ponder on his effectiveness. One particular miss from underneath the crossbar 30 seconds after the break had to be seen to be believed. In contrast, Windass in midfield strolled through the game when his team needed more. Paul Bernard was left to hound Fulton and John Millar.

As the game went on, Hearts could feel aggrieved to be a goal down. They had a sackload of corners which the Aberdeen defence struggled to deal with and Ian Jess's heel was the only thing which stopped Pasquale Bruno scoring from a scramble. They had a genuine appeal for a penalty turned down when Brian Grant tugged the shirt of Hans Eskilsson, but having said that the Dons did come closer to scoring. Stephen Glass hit the post with a 40-yard drive and only Gille Rousset's athleticism stopped Shearer scoring with a header.

It was an inspired substitution by Hearts, however, which eventually gave them justice and more incredibly all three points. John Colquhoun, who replaced Eskilsson, had only been on for five minutes when he set Johnston free to grab a well-deserved point. A fair result for both teams. Colquhoun had other ideas, however, and two minutes later he received Pointon's long ball into the box, turned, shot and the earlier deficit was reversed.