Date: 20th December 2006 at 1:08pm
Written by:

Hearts supporters were outraged when Paul Harley was dropped from the starting line-up for their 1-0 defeat to Aberdeen at Tynecastle last weekend, but Dundee United will be hoping he’s dropped completely from the side that travels to Tannadice on Saturday.

Paul Hartley has scored in the last 3 consecutive matches between the two sides, twice from the penalty spot late in the game and has found the net 5 out of the last 9 games against United.

The last time Hearts played at Tannadice – in February – Dundee United looked certain to take all 3 points after a 35th Grant Brebner goal, but referee Dougie McDonald awarded the visitors a controversial penalty in the 83rd minute.

The referee decided that Steven Pressley had been brought down by Alan Archibald inside the box and Hartley took the resultant penalty, sending Derek Stillie the wrong way to secure an undeserved point for Hearts in a 1-1 draw.

Then, in the last match at Tynecastle, Hartley stepped up to score another late penalty after Beslija was brought down in the 89th minute, but on that occasion the score line suggested the match wasn’t as close. Hearts eventually won 4-0, a result which flattered them, since Dundee United played much better than a 4-0 defeat would implicate, but it was a day when the home side took all their chances & United couldn`t take a single one of theirs.

Dundee United haven’t beaten Hearts in the SPL since the 16th April 2005, when goals from Barry Robson & a 90th minute winner from former Hibee Grant Brebner gave Gordon Chisholm’s side a 2-1 win.

However, since playing in that 2-1 win, United defender Alan Archibald has had a bit of a nightmare in matches against Hearts.

He was responsible for giving away the late penalty in the 1-1 game and managed to score an own goal in the last match, when he deflected a Andreas Velicka shot past his own goalkeeper.

Vital Quotes:

Although, Archibald (who turned 29 last week) wont be the only player looking to chance his fortunes agaisnt Hearts, since captain Barry Robson was shown a straight red card after a challenge on visiting captain Steven Pressley in the 1-1 match at Tannadice.

Hearts player Brellier was also sent off a minute later for violent conduct, after the brawl that errupted following Robsons dismissal.

Former Hearts manager Craig Levein will take charge of Dundee United for the first time against his old club, but doesn`t have a clue which line-up he’ll be facing on Saturday afternoon.

Levein is a manager who believes in consistency, which is why he will miss 1st team regulars Christian Kalvenes(suspended) and attacker Noel Hunt(ankle injury).

However, the Hearts starting eleven has been anything but consistent this season, with players like Hartley & Webster dropped for not agreeing with Chairman Vladimir Romanov and the captain Steven Pressley sacked for standing-up against the Hearts dictator.

“You just can’t second guess what team they’ll put out so I’ll probably have to prepare on the basis that all their best players will be playing,” said Levein.

“It would be a real plus for us if they left Hartley out. In fact, I hope he isn’t even on the bench because he’s such a good player.”

“Having Noel out is a blow for us, and for him, because he is playing very well right now, but it could have been worse.”

Dundee United Team News:

With Christian Kalvenes suspended, Levein has to decide who to play in his place, but Steven Robb would seem the obvious choice after he did so well for an hour against Motherwell – coming on for Collin Samuel after Kalvenes was sent off in the 31st minute.

Levein continued, “It’s really a choice between Alan Archibald and Steven Robb. I`ve not made my mind up as yet and I’ll have to work out what Hearts might do first, which isn’t that easy.”

David Goodwillie is likely to take Noel Hunts place in the starting line-up, following the announcement that Hunt will be out for several weeks after landing awkwardly on his ankle when he jumped to score United’s winner against Motherwell at Fir Park.

“It`s another indication of how light the squad is here that we have one injury in a position and we are looking to a 17-year-old as cover, but he did do well when we were at Hibs the other week,” said Levein.

Player to watch: Craig Conway

The midfielder’s accurate crosses have caused problems for many SPL defences already this season and he turned provider for both Collin Samuel and David McCracken’s goals against Motherwell last weekend.

Capable of crossing with either foot, the 21-year-old has been receiving a lot of praise from his manager in recent weeks.

On his contribution towards Collin Samuel`s goal last weekend, Levein said “It was good work by young Craig Conway on the left hand side and his crossing with both feet is excellent,”

Hearts Team News:

Hearts will be without defender Ibrahim Tall who is out with a virus, while Mirsad Beslija (knee) and Mauricio Pinilla (calf) are also unavailable.

Paul Hartley will probably return to the Hearts starting line-up and forward Roman Bednar & midfielder Julien Brellier are also available for selection.

Player to watch: Paul Hartley

The will he wont he story about Paul Hartley is making headlines all over the country, but Scotland`s top midfielder is quite capable of turning any match he plays in.

He’s managed to find the net in all of the last 3 matches between United & Hearts and his former manager- Craig Levein – is well aware of his ability.

Paul Hartley’s influence on the Hearts side is obvious, he scored within 5minutes of coming on off the bench against Aberdeen last weekend – but his effort was chopped off for offside.

He received a standing ovation from the Hearts supporters when he came on and the whole team got a lift from him just being on the park.

Match Facts & Stats

Last 5 meetings:

Hearts 4-0 Dundee United
01st October 2006 (SPL)
Attendance: 16,849
Venue: Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh
Referee: Eddie Smith
Alan Archibald (30mins, og, Hearts)
Juho Makela (39mins, Hearts)
Paul Hartley (89mins, penalty, Hearts)
Jamie Mole (89mins, Hearts)

Dundee United 1-1 Hearts
07th February 2006 (SPL)
Attendance: 10,584
Venue: Tannadice Park, Dundee
Referee: Douglas McDonald
Grant Brebner (35mins, Dundee Utd)
Paul Hartley (83mins, penalty, Hearts)

Hearts 3-0 Dundee United
5th November 2005 (SPL)
Attendance: 16,617
Venue: Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh
Referee: Craig Thomson
Paul Hartley (4mins, Hearts)
Rudolf Skacel (28mins, Hearts)
Michel Pospisil (57mins, Hearts)

Dundee United 0-3 Hearts
14th August 2005 (SPL)
Attendance: 11,654
Venue: Tannadice Park, Dundee
Referee: Charlie Richmond
Steven Pressley (6mins, Hearts)
Roman Bednar (12mins, Hearts)
Rudolf Skacel (90mins, Hearts)

Dundee United 2-1 Hearts
16th April 2005 (SPL)
Attendance: 7,704
Venue: Tannadice Park, Dundee
Referee: Alan Freeland
Barry Robson (37mins, Dundee Utd)
Lee Miller (39mins, Hearts)
Grant Brebner (90mins, Dundee Utd)

Match Prediction:

Every time the Dundee United players seem to play well, they end up on the losing side, so United supporters would be quite happy with a bad performance if it lead to a 5th win in-a-row at Tannadice.

However, Hearts are a very talented side and even after struggling to find their first match in 10 games against Motherwell a fortnight ago, they are still capable of getting a result against United.

Incidentally, the last team they beat before their run of 9 games without a win, was Dundee United and when you are struggling to score, or struggling to win, United always seem to be the team to bounce back against.

Prediction: Dundee United 1-3 Hearts

Next Fixtures:

Hearts vs Hibernian (26th Dec)
Celtic vs Dundee United (26th Dec)

Dundee United are very unlikely to beat Celtic at Parkhead, but a good result against Hearts could set-up a very exciting Boxing Day clash between the two sides.

Related Links
Vital Football:
Dundee United Site
Hearts Site
Latest SPL News
Fixtures & Results:
Previews Archive
Stats Archive
Reports Archive
Report: Motherwell(a)
Stats: Motherwell(a)
Report: Caley Thistle(h)
Have Your Say:
Dundee United Forums
Hearts Forums
All SPL Forums