Dundee grabbed their first win back in the Scottish Premiership with a deserved 1-0 victory over a Heart of Midlothian side who struggled for large parts of their afternoon in the City of Discovery.

The Dens Park side were by far the better team in the first half with Hearts struggling to find any rhythm or intensity. The visitors stepped it up after the break but after weathering the storm, Dundee took the lead after Luke McCowan took advantage of a slack Aidan Denholm pass.

Here is all we learned from the fixture which leaves the sides on four points each...

Dundee human error narrative

Luke McCowan was starting. Then he wasn't, replaced in the line-up by Josh Mulligan. Only, by the time the game kicked off, he was back in with Mulligan back on the bench. Official explanation landed at "human error". Far from an ideal start to proceedings for a Dundee which had two weeks off since their last outing. One manager Tony Docherty used to build the fitness of some players, while also working on tactical work which would allow the team to play on the "front foot". In the first week there were five double training sessions and the second saw some team bonding. Despite such uncertainty with the starting XI, it was the home side who were the brighter team for the first-half in a 4-3-3 formation, one which saw McCowan playing through the middle rather than out wide. Dundee enjoyed plenty of joy down the right with Owen Beck motoring forward to support Scott Tiffoney with McCowan also joining in. When the goal did come it was only going to be one man, of course. The man who wasn't even meant to be in the starting XI. Intercepting an Aidan Denholm pass, he still had plenty to do to beat a retreating Zander Clark. But he did, clipping the ball into the top corner. 

Hello darkness, my old friend

It was a 45 minutes Hearts fans have been all too familiar with in 2023, especially away from home. Lots of possession but little in the way of an attacking threat. Frankie McAvoy's men had 61 per cent of possession but registered one measly effort. A tame offering from a corner. Absolutely nothing from open play. The xG of 0.04 said everything about the team as an attacking force. Technical director Steven Naismith cut a frustrated figure on the sideline as did Lawrence Shankland in attack. It wouldn't take long to find a reference to Robbie Neilson's Hearts amongst the club's support on social media. It was a first-half performance which was akin to those towards the end of Neilson's reign. So much of the ball but so much of it in their own half (121 completed passes to 79 in the opposition half). Of the players to have had the most touches in the first half, the four Hearts defenders and Toby Sibbick, a defender playing in a midfield two. Four of those five had the most passes. A familiar sight saw Kent step forward with the ball but take too long before shifting the ball to Odel Offiah or Stephen Kingsley get possession and look up with little to hit, turn before being put under pressure. It was therefore no surprise to see three changes at half-time.

Boyce impact

With Hearts predominantly set up in a 4-2-3-1 system which can become 4-4-2, there is a requirement for either Lawrence Shankland or Liam Boyce to play as the second striker or No.10. The two forwards are the most intelligent and creative players at the club. As soon as Boyce joined Shankland in attack, Hearts immediately became a better and more threatening side. They are the two players who have the craft, awareness and physicality to receive the ball with their back to goal, protect it, turn and/or link play. Alex Lowry barely saw the ball in that role in the opening half. Moving wide left afforded him more space in which to drift, get on the ball and take on opponents. Like Barrie McKay two seasons ago, he benefits from Boyce's selflessness, presence and willingness to provide assistance.

Dens defence

Dundee's last six seasons in the Scottish Premiership have seen them concede 57, 57, 62, 57, 78 and 64. An average of 62.5. Even their last two promotion-winning campaigns in the Championship saw them concede, on average, more than a goal a game. In short, Dundee fans have witnessed a lot of goals being scored against them for a number of years. It is an area where, if they can be a hard team to play against, score against, they will have a huge chance of not just survival but comfortable survival. Against Hearts, they defended impressively. Cammy Kerr's tenacity going one v one epitomised that hunger and aggression. In Joe Shaughnessy and Trevor Carson the club have recruited two players who immediately make their backline more reliable and experienced, especially within the top flight.

Hearts' midfield issues

With the Thursday-Sunday schedule of the last few weeks, the Hearts management team have made use of the deep squad which has meant changes in the midfield with defenders Alex Cochrane and Toby Sibbick being utilised in central roles. Injuries to both Peter Haring and Beni Baningime have robbed the team of the two controlling influences, while Calem Nieuwenhof is yet to get up and running. It is an area of the pitch which has impacted the team's build-up and aforementioned reliance to play through Shankland and Boyce who drop deep.