Dundee manager James McPake accused Hearts counterpart Robbie Neilson of unnecessarily “stoking the fire” with his comments ahead of their 1-1 draw at Tynecastle.
Neilson this week stated his players should remember Dundee’s contentious and crucial role in the vote that ultimately sent Hearts down in 2020 and added: “I think there will be a good atmosphere on the day, let’s say that.”
McPake felt the comments did not help the welcome that faced Leigh Griffiths at Tynecastle but it was another former Hibernian striker, Jason Cummings, who had the last laugh when he headed home an 83rd-minute equaliser.
Hearts went top of the cinch Premiership courtesy of John Souttar’s opener but the second biggest cheer of the day proved to be the substitution of Griffiths rather than the full-time whistle.
On the abuse Griffiths faced from the home fans, McPake said: “I don’t think it helps that opposition managers are coming out and saying it’s going to be a white hot atmosphere. We already know there’s going to be 20,000 fans in here. Leigh is already a target, we know that.
“He will go to the fact there was a voting scandal. But we have played them three times since and he was the manager of Dundee United at the time of the vote. I don’t think there was a need to say what he did. Maybe he should concentrate on his own team.
“Yeah he’s got to try and get his own fans up for it but you are at Tynecastle with the chance to go top and I don’t think certain comments help the situation with Leigh. It’s stoking the fire.
“I didn’t like it but I can only concentrate on Dundee and the wellbeing of our players. I want Leigh Griffiths the footballer to be enjoying playing football, which he is at Dundee.”
Griffiths had a quiet afternoon but substitute Cummings got his chance to silence the home supporters when he headed home Cammy Kerr’s long throw.
McPake said: “He is a goalscorer, but he has also shown recently a real desire and real character, that maybe people would doubt, when he’s not in the team. He has been brilliant in training.
“He has probably been disappointed (he has not been in the team) because his goal record since he came to Dundee has been good. But he is really bubbly and great to have about the place.
“It probably sums him up, when you bring him over to give him a wee bit of instruction, he just says ‘I’m going to get the winner’. He’s got confidence in himself and that’s great.
“He says he will score every time he plays. He even talked Cammy Kerr into having a long throw. We have been doing a long throw for three years and Cammy has never put one in. I’d love to say that’s something we worked on but it wasn’t.”
There were some boos from the home fans when the final whistle went but Neilson was far from angry after his side went top on goal difference.
Neilson, who saw Liam Boyce and Gary Mackay-Steven hit the woodwork, said: “If you look at the bigger picture, we are sitting top of the league after 10 games.
“Yes, we are disappointed not to have taken maximum points after the way we played and the amount of chances we created but I can’t fault the players for their effort and the way they tried to win.
“But when you are 1-0 up and you don’t get the next goal, you are always susceptible to losing one.”
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