Goals galore as Hearts hammer Rovers
Hearts dished out plenty of ‘medicine’ to Championship rivals Raith Rovers in a 4-0 victory at Stark’s Park, with a special cameo appearance from a certain striker. Jamie Mcintosh reports.
After Hearts’ shock defeat at home to Raith Rovers on Saturday, attention was immediately turned to the rematch between the two sides at Stark’s Park on Tuesday. A win for Rovers would see them move within six points of Hearts, with two games in hand over the current league leaders.
John McGlynn hailed his side’s determination after Saturday’s victory, so it was no surprise to see him make only two changes to the winning team, with frontman Manny Duku replacing the injured Gozie Ugwu and Lewis Vaughan replacing Ross Matthews.
As for Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, he once again questioned a refereeing decision which went against his Hearts side on Saturday. Since then, Hearts brought in a new striker in the shape of Armand Gnanduillet – the Frenchman signed an 18-month deal at Tynecastle on Monday and was brought straight into the manager’s matchday squad.
Neilson made three changes from Saturday’s defeat, with Mihai Popescu replacing the injured Christophe Berra, Josh Ginnelly replacing Elliott Frear and Jamie Walker replacing Steven Naismith, meaning Craig Gordon captained the side.
The Match Itself
The first chance fell to the visitors, when Mihai Popescu intercepted a pass and drove forward before chipping the ball over the top of the Raith defence for Jamie Walker, who struck it on his left foot but was denied by Jamie MacDonald from close range.
Hearts had started the better of the two teams, but were dealt a huge blow after 15 minutes, as Josh Ginnelly was forced off with an injury, being replaced by Euan Henderson.
Jamie Walker was brought in from the start tonight and had the perfect opportunity to repay Robbie Neilson’s faith when latching on to a loose Rovers pass The midfielder took it round Jamie MacDonald, but could only find the side netting from an acute angle.
Raith were trying to play out from the back tonight and were getting themselves into constant trouble – MacDonald’s pass to full back Regan Tumilty was intercepted, but Liam Boyce couldn’t punish the goalkeeper’s slack pass and the game remained goalless.
Rovers had really struggled to see the ball in the opening half hour, but they finally had a sight of goal and it was no surprise to see Kai Kennedy was involved. The on-loan Rangers winger picked up possession halfway up the pitch and had his first run at Michael Smith but the full back did his job and stopped the cross at the expense of a corner.
From the resulting corner, Hearts broke and substitute Henderson fashioned a chance for himself. He couldn’t work MacDonald however, and his shot flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
Not long afterwards, Hearts got the lead that their play deserved, ten minutes before the break. Liam Boyce picked up the ball 30 yards from goal before playing a one-two with Michael Smith and when the striker got it back, he lashed the ball into the roof of the net, giving MacDonald no chance. A well-worked goal made in Northern Ireland, which no doubt brought smiles to some Scottish faces.
Andy Halliday has struggled since joining Hearts but looked bright in this game, being denied twice in quick succession by MacDonald, who, again, was in fine form. Despite the Raith keeper pushing Halliday’s second effort over the bar, Hearts would double their lead from the resulting corner, as Andy Irving’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Boyce and bundle over the line from close range by substitute Henderson.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts before half time – after being put under pressure by Andy Halliday, Regan Hendry was shown a straight red by referee Euan Anderson for allegedly stamping on the Hearts midfielder.
Boyce had the perfect opportunity to seal the points before the break as he held his line well, before being slipped through by Halliday but the striker’s shot was comfortable for MacDonald.
That was the last chance of the half, a half that Hearts had dominated from start to finish and deservedly led 2-0 at the break. It was looking like a long second half in store for the hosts, with Hearts looking hungry for more goals.
The visitors nearly made it three just minutes into the second half. Boyce knocked the ball down perfectly for the onrushing Walker, who’s sweetly struck volley was brilliant tipped round the post by that man MacDonald.
Hearts were in cruise control, as you’d expect with the man advantage, and Gary Mackay-Steven should’ve made it three, scoring his first for Hearts in the process, but could only fire over from another good lay-off from Boyce.
With an hour gone, Robbie Neilson decided to bring on Armand Gnanduillet for his Hearts debut and, if truth be told, you’d struggle to pick a better game to introduce him to, considering the amount of chances Hearts were creating.
The striker almost had the perfect start to life at Hearts, as Mackay-Steven sent a cross to the back post, with Gnanduillet heading the ball down into the ground. However, he had to generate all the power himself and was unable to find enough to beat MacDonald, who was able to dive to his right and gather the effort.
Hearts’ third goal did arrive in the 83rd minute and as far as the visitors were concerned, it was the icing on the cake. Walker fired a low shot towards goal, drawing a save from MacDonald but the Raith goalkeeper parried the ball straight to Gnanduillet, who slammed home to earn himself a debut goal.
The ball was in MacDonald’s net for a fourth time with three minutes to go, when Kingsley’s cross was volleyed home by Craig Halkett – however the linesman’s flag was raised and it remained 3-0 to the away side.
It didn’t remain this way for long however – a corner was swung in from the left hand side and Gnanduillet powered a header into the far corner of the Raith goal, earning his second and Hearts’ fourth of the night. This proved to be the final action of the match, as the referee brought an end to proceedings shortly after.
Post Match Comments
If you’d asked Robbie Neilson for his ideal scenario for tonight’s game, I’m sure a clean sheet and two goals for his new signing would be high on the agenda:
“I thought we started the game really well, the best we have for a long time. It was the perfect response to Saturday, every game we play in this season we’re going to be favourites to win and we’ve got to deal with that – I thought we did that tonight.”
On Josh Ginnelly, Neilson explained: “It’s a hamstring problem that forced him off. It’s not as bad as the last one that’s for sure, we’ll scan him tomorrow and we’ll just take it from there, hopefully it’s not too bad though.”
It had been a dismal evening for Raith Rovers and after the match John McGlynn admitted that the best team won:
“It was men against boys in the first half I thought, it was a very sluggish start from us, but I was worried about tonight. I thought Saturday took a lot out of us and I think it showed.
“The red card didn’t help, but I think it was the correct decision. We nearly got away with a 0-0 second half, but then the two late goals were a wee bit of salt in the wounds, but we need to dust ourselves down now, because we’ve got another big game on Saturday against Dundee.”
A dream debut for Gnanduillet, who only arrived in Edinburgh yesterday, turning down three other clubs to sign for the Jambos and he was able to mark his first appearance in maroon with two goals in a comfortable Hearts win:
“I’m just really happy, we won 4-0 and I managed to score twice, that’ll give me a lot of confidence for the future.
“I spoke to my good friend Clevid Dikamona and he told me to go straight away, he said I would love it here and I would score goals here and obviously it’s a really good start.”
There’s no rest for either team in this shortened league season – Hearts host another of their title challengers, Dunfermline, on Saturday, meanwhile Raith host Dundee in another crucial Championship match.