Dundee Utd 2-2 Hearts

By Clive LindsayBBC Scotland

Arvydas Novikovas' late equaliser gave Hearts a deserved draw that dents Dundee Utd's hopes of securing a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

Willo Flood's superb, low 30-yard drive found the far corner of the Hearts net after 32 minutes at Tannadice.

Rudi Skacel steered home a header to equalise three minutes later.

Gary Mackay-Steven fired United ahead after 65 minutes, but substitute Novikovas powered in a second equaliser with seven minutes remaining.

Novikovas celebrates his equaliser for Hearts at Tannadice
Novikovas celebrates his equaliser for Hearts at Tannadice

It prevented United recording a sixth straight win over Hearts - and a clean sweep this season - and moving ahead of Motherwell on goal difference before the third-top side's meeting with St Johnstone later in the afternoon.

United had gone into the game having won four of their last give games, while Hearts' own chances of European qualification had been dented by their three-game winning streak being ended by Rangers last weekend.

Garry Kenneth had recovered from a hamstring injury to replace Gavin Gunning, who suffered a shoulder problem last week, in a United defence that displayed some early uncertainty.

United goalkeeper Dusan Pernis clutched fresh air with his attempt to a gather at a corner and Ryan McGowan's header flew just over the crossbar.

Play was soon swinging from end to end and Jon Daly's 12-yard header forced the first save from Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald.

The visitors suffered a blow when Craig Beattie was forced out of action after 29 minutes with a heel injury that has troubled the striker in recent weeks.

Stephen Elliott, who had been replaced with Suso in the starting line-up, was the replacement, the pre-match injury doubt having been dropped to the bench by manager Paulo Sergio.

Hearts were still reorganising when they found themselves a goal behind following Flood's first goal of the season.

McGowan's aimless clearing header had given the midfielder the space to shoot from long range, but the young versatile Australian made amends by providing the cross that immediately led to the equaliser.

Robbie Neilson's clearing header fell to Skacel, who guided the ball off his forehand across the goal and into the far corner from 14 yards for Hearts' first goal in this season's four meetings between the sides.

McGowan's busy few minutes were concluded with a clash of heads with Daly, with the Hearts defender returning to the field with a bandage wrapped round his bleeding brow.

Visiting winger Andrew Driver was fortunate to escape even a booking with the kind of high tackle on Paul Dixon that not only left the United man with a painful shin but has led to many a red card this season.

Hearts also finished the first half the more dangerous in terms of chances and began the second half the better too, with Pernis calmly clawing away a fine curling Danny Grainger free-kick and Marius Zaliukas heading just over from the resulting corner.

Pernis did well to parry a one-handed Skacel header that looked to have initially wrong-footed the goalkeeper following a Driver cross.

United regained the lead against the run of play when Scott Robertson dummied Flood's low corner and Mackay-Steven's bundled shot slipped through the legs of Zaliukas and inside the back post.

Hearts substitute David Templeton fired against the crossbar after a quick break by Suso, but Novikovas' fine strike gave Hearts the equaliser after turning inside Robertson.

A Rankin shot on the turn whizzed past a Hearts post as United had to settle for a point to remain adrift of Motherwell.

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