Kings of Gorgie too strong for Queens
A 6-1 victory with five different goalscorers will see Hearts head to Hampden with plenty of confidence. Jamie Mcintosh reports.
Hearts managed to find their way back to the top of the Championship table last weekend after a comfortable victory over a fairly uninspiring Morton side and it has to be said, I struggled to find much for the Jambos to be concerned about coming into today’s home fixture against Queen of the South.
The Doonhamers currently sit 8th in the table and were comprehensively beaten last Friday by Inverness. Their only league win this season came against bottom side Alloa and it was very hard to try and justify backing them to pick up all three points at Tynecastle. It did look like the result was a formality today for Hearts and a comfortable victory with no injuries to report ahead of next weekend’s Scottish Cup Final against Celtic would be music to the ears of manager Robbie Neilson.
Hearts made two changes from last weekend’s victory at Cappielow, with Aidy White and Liam Boyce returning to the starting XI in place of Andy Halliday and Craig Wighton. As for the visitors, they also made two changes from last weekend’s defeat to Inverness, with Nortei Nortey and Rhys McCabe replacing Joe McKee and Niyah Joseph.
Hearts dominated the early possession – as you would expect – but the visitors were well drilled and happy to try play on the break. Andy Irving, who retained his place in the starting XI, was always looking to get on the ball, whilst Michael Smith and Stephen Kingsley were providing the width for the hosts.
Queens did have a couple of promising breaks in the opening 15 minutes, however the final ball let the visitors down. The closest Hearts came to a goal was a Craig Halkett header, which sailed harmlessly over the bar.
It hadn’t been a great start to the game and with Queens sitting deep, it did look like a moment of magic might be required to break the deadlock. Step forward Hearts’ captain, Steven Naismith. The ball broke to him 25 yards from goal and he let fly with a perfectly struck volley, which flew into the corner of the net and left Jack Leighfield with absolutely no chance. 20 minutes on the clock and the hosts had the lead.
Hearts looked to have a good shout for a penalty moments later when Jamie Walker took a tumble in the box, but referee Willie Collum wasn’t interested.
The home side should have doubled their lead when Liam Boyce’s shot rebounded into the path of Olly Lee but somehow the midfielder fired over from a matter of yards in an early contender for the miss of the season.
Queens had responded well to going behind and Connor Shields had a golden chance to equalise on the half hour mark, as his audacious lob beat Craig Gordon, but landed on the wrong side of the crossbar. The visitors did claim for a penalty after Shields went down under the challenge from the onrushing Gordon, but once again, Willie Collum wasn’t interested. William Gibson then tried his luck from distance for the visitors ten minutes before the break and his effort may well have been sneaking in, had it not been for the fingertips of Craig Gordon.
Hearts definitely weren’t having this all their own way and Allan Johnston’s side had given a very good account of themselves in the first half. Unfortunately for the Doonhamers, they didn’t do enough in the final third and they were punished right on the stroke of half time, when Olly Lee’s cross from the right was headed in by Liam Boyce. A relief for the striker, who ended something of a mini goal drought and sent his team in at the break with a 2-0 lead. Shortly after, Willie Collum brought the half to a close, with Hearts having recaptured the momentum with Boyce’s headed finish.
I’m not sure what Allan Johnston said to his players at half time, but it would be fair to say it didn’t have the desired effect. A lung bursting run down the left from Aidy White saw him deliver a perfect cross for Boyce to tap in at the back post and secure the points for the hosts, just 30 seconds into the second half – after a relatively uninspiring first half from the hosts, they were well in control now.
With 30 minutes remaining, there was a welcome return to action for Josh Ginnelly, who replaced Olly Lee on the right wing.
Queen of the South pulled a goal back with 15 minutes to go, when Ayo Obileye took advantage of some very poor Hearts defending to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.
That hope was short-lived however as moments later, Queens gave the ball away on the edge of their own box. Jamie Walker came in off the left and dispatched the ball into the bottom corner for Hearts’ fourth of the game and the midfielder’s fourth of the season.
Hearts were in cruise control at this point and made it five with eight minutes to play, when Liam Boyce danced around Obileye before cutting the ball back for Elliott Frear to score his first goal for the club, tapping in from close range.
Liam Boyce should have grabbed his hat-trick just moments from the end, however the striker volleyed substitute Andy Halliday’s cross over the bar from close range. The sixth did arrive just minutes later though, when the returning Ginnelly tried his luck from distance and successfully found the bottom corner. It can’t be underestimated just how much the winger brings to this Hearts side and, if fit, he will be absolutely pivotal to Neilson’s side at Hampden next Sunday.
Despite what the scoreline might suggest, this game really wasn’t much of a classic. Hearts were better in the second half, but they switched off for the Queens goal and they will be punished if they do that against Celtic next weekend. Queens looked good in the first half, but when the third goal went in at the start of the second half, they appeared to lose all hope and as a result of that, their goal difference took a big hit.
Plenty goals and no injuries is exactly what Robbie Neilson would’ve wanted from this fixture and he was pleased to see five different players on the scoresheet:
“It’s great to go into the cup final next week on the back of a good performance and everybody has come through it fit. It’s also very important that we don’t rely on just the one player to score all the goals, so it’s great for Frear and Gino who have both had injuries this season to get on and grab a goal.”
Liam Boyce returned to the starting XI and was pleased with his own personal performance as well as the result, however he is disappointed he didn’t convert his late opportunity to take home the match ball:
“The only disappointing thing is I didn’t get the hat-trick! The whole second half I was waiting for a chance to come along and it comes along in the 90th minute, I should really be scoring that one. Obviously I missed that last week so it’s just good to get 90 minutes under my belt before next week and grab a couple of goals too.”
It wasn’t a magical return to Tynecastle for the former Hearts magician Allan Johnston and whilst he openly accepted games against Hearts won’t define the Doonhamers’ season, he insists his side must be better defensively:
“A disappointing day – I don’t remember losing 6-1 on too many occasions. We have to tighten up defensively, we can’t keep giving away cheap goals, especially against Hearts, because they’ll punish you and that’s what happened today.”
Queens will be looking to bounce back next weekend as they travel to Cappielow to face Morton, meanwhile, as previously mentioned, Hearts take on quadruple treble-chasing Celtic at Hampden next Sunday in the 2019/20 Scottish Cup Final.