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We're still no closer to discovering what Jim Jefferies' idea of a perfect defensive formation is. He chose a three/five man version - the Magnificent Prez, the pretty-damn' tough Petric, and Grant Murray, whose attitude can never be faulted: and two wide men, Naysmith and Locke.
With Severin restored to the middle of the action from his still-impossible-to-fathom view from the pitch's edge against Hibernian, there was at least a contest for the ball which Hearts just about got the better of. In fact, their determination in the tackle was just about what won Hearts this game. It certainly wasn't skill wot dun it, 'cause there was very, very little throughout the game till near the end when Fulton showed how good he is when he doesn't need to be. Until then, he hadn't shown very much. Cameron has lost his form for the minute but you get your 90 minutes' worth and Dundee rarely had a comfortable time in the middle of the park. Hearts are badly-hamstrung by the lack of a top-class striker. McSwegan was injured, which is bad news: he is good at leading the line, and good at scoring goals. Unfortunately he can't do both at the same time.
Adam's injury is less worrying, since he can't do either any more.
That leaves Gary Wales, and here lies the dilemma - is he any good? Will giving him a regular game make him better, or will he get in the way of our push for a big fat European cheque? There were times he looked slow to realise what was going on, but he was enthusiastic and it was good to see the opposition's defence being rushed. Unfortunately he scorned the only real chance of the game, but his finish was spectacularly poor and the only thing the photographers took was evasive action. But most disappointing was that Hearts' defensive security didn't let Cameron and Fulton into the Dundee penalty box ever: instead it was Severin who made telling bursts to join the attack, where Jackson was the auxilliary striker. Jackson didn't look very good, but he never does when it's a scrappy game, and he was left isolated all too often and most of his clever passes ended up looking not-very-clever. Hearts' threats came mainly from set-pieces and from a corner Severin's shot was tipped onto the bar by Douglas: and shortly afterward the ball was in the net from the next one, the ball pinballing to Wales who was alert enough to smack it in the net.
For once an equaliser didn't look odds-on, but Dundee began to see far too much of the ball, and the midfield backed off long enough to allow the best left foot in Scotland, that of Shaun McSkimming, to smack it off the crossbar: and even during this period Hearts didn't hold any kind of threat on the break. At least they were playing with some fire in their belly, and showing your teeth to hammer-throwers like Dundee is the only language they understand.
So have we learned anything else from all this? Too many fans get all worked up about our performances against the Old Firm - that if we play badly it's the end of the world, that if we play well then we are world-beaters, that every other team in the Premier League will sit back and acknowledge Hearts' footballing superiority and allow us to get on with it. Well, that's Raphael Scheidt. Celtic and Rangers generally allow us to play a bit, and if they're in any danger they'll start kicking us up in the air. For teams like Dundee, that's their opening gambit: which is why we have to get our statement of intent in first. Let's hope Pressley and Simpson and Severin and Petric can physically intimidate the provincials. Once we start beating St Johnstone and co with monotonous regularity, these crappy little upstarts will start to believe they can't.
I still canny understand why Locke is playing. Leclerq came on for him after 70 minutes when it was obvious that one more attempt to foul his opponent as he strolled past would get him booked. What a pity, then, that Locke wasn't booked in the first minute. Tomaschek and Simpson were on the bench. Where and how Jefferies intends to use them isn't yet clear: the word on the street is that Tomaschek has real class, so presumably he'll play in front of the back two; with Naysmith and Leclerq (or Flogel) on either side of him. If there are two orthodox strikers then that leaves three places in midfield: any three from Cameron, Jackson, Severin, Simpson, Fulton and Flogel.
The lack of width is certainly a problem: a lot is being asked of Naysmith at the moment, because he is the one player who really does get forward, and often to the bye-line. Flogel's problem is his lack of ideas from 18 yards out. McSwegan runs down the line very effectively: sadly that means he's not in the middle to score lots of goals. Still we've no idea if Leclerq can do anything: but he can do more than Locke, although Gary did, to his credit, put James Grady out of the game halfway through the first half. It would be wrong to minimise such a contribution.