Larry the hero as Hearts secure late win
Hearts moved back into fourth place in the table after a hard-fought victory over an admittedly luckless Caley Thistle side at Tynecastle. David Obua's first and second goals for the club had the home side in front at half-time and then with ten minutes to go, but on each occasion they were pegged back, first by Pavels Mihadjuks on 55 minutes, and then through Dugie Imrie's stunning free-kick ith two minutes remaining. Csaba Laslo's men were not to be denied though, and sealed the win with a minute to go through Laryea Kingston's easy finish.
Only one change for the home side from the game at Rugby Park seven days previously, Lee Wallace restored at left back in place of stand-in Jason Thomson. Following seven defats on the bounce, meanwhile, managerless Thistle brought in Dougie Imrie and Thierry Gathuessi for Filipe Morais and Andy Barrowman, with only the latter finding a place on the Highlanders bench.
Whatever part the on-loan Hibernian defender was to play in the visitors' plans was disrupted barely 15 minutes in when he crumpled under no challenge near the corner of the Wheatfield and Gorgie Stands. A few minutes later and his afternoon was over, replaced by David Proctor with only 18 minutes on the clock.
Nothing much else had happened until that point, but Hearts almost took advantage of the visitors' defensive reshuffle a minute later when Michael Stewart played a neat ball down the left for Andrew Driver to chase. The winger's driven ball was met by Grant Munro's lunge at the near post, and it took a smart stop from Ryan Esson to prevent the home side from taking an early lead.
From the standard we'd witnessed thus far, you got the feeling it would be a game of few chances. Just as well then that Dougie Imrie missed one of the gilt-edged variety on 25 minutes, when he headed Iain Vigurs' deep free-kick into the side netting when it looked at least as easy to score.
That seemed to wake up Hearts a little, though, and they began to apply a little more pressure. Three quick corners brought little reward, despite the fact they were struck by three different players, before a thrilling run by Wallace gained another flag kick, which the left-back himself eventually booted high into the Roseburn Stand.
The home side continued to press, though, and finally got their reward after 38 minutes when Obua notched his first goal for the club. It was made by Driver who easily beat his man on the Hearts left and hung a cross high into the six yard box, where Esson rose but failed to claim under pressure, allowing Obua to bundle the loose ball home from close range.
Hearts began the second period looking likely to increase their advantage, Driver the first to show real intent with a close range volley which Esson turned - needlessly it seemed from our angle - around the post. Christos Karipidis then headed high over the crossbar from just two yards after Stewart's teasing cross found the Greek rising unmarked at the far post.
The visitors were displaying no little endeavour themselves, however, and after Obua was forced to clear under pressure from Don Cowie's cross, they were rewarded with an equalising goal ten minutes into the half. Imrie's free-kick was pinged towards the penalty spot from where Pavels Mihadjuks bulleted it past MacDonald with a fine diving header.
And the Highlanders almost sneaked into the lead just three minutes later when a loose ball from a corner fell kindly for Ross Tokely inside the area. The big defender got it all wrong though, ballooning a poor effort high over the crossbar from 12 yards.
The home side regrouped and soon had Christian Nade showing neat footwork inside the area before seeing his shot well saved. Stewart then tested the former Aberdeen man with a left footer from 25 yards.
Gary Glen appeared for Aguiar soon after, much to the displeasure of the large crowd, but Hearts were on the front foot now and should have retaken the lead on 65 minutes when Driver was fouled by Roy McBain inside the area. Michael Stewart stepped forward to take the kick, only to see his powerful effort well saved by Esson. McBain was sent off in the aftermath of the penalty, presumably for something he had said to either referee or linesman, and as Inverness reorganised, Karipidis saw another header tipped over the crossbar by the keeper.
This was a rollicking affair now, with play throbbing from end to end and Caley clearly fancying their own chances despite being a man down. But as they opened up, so did the gaps in midfield. And that was all the home side needed. Karipidis again fed Driver on the right, he again wriggled past his marker and again delivered a superb ball to the far post, where Obua was again on hand to nod past Esson and into the net.
Anyone thinking that the game was over at that point would have been mistaken though. Two minutes to go and Imrie cut in from the right before being pushed over by Obua around 25 yards from goal. It looked a needless foul to concede and Hearts were made to pay heavily when the victim got up, dusted himself down, and then cracked a wonderful shot high past MacDonald and in off the crossbar.
That might have broken previous Hearts teams but not this one or a least not today. Straight from the kick off, Stewart teased a high ball wide to the right where Driver controlled beautifully first time, motored to the byline and cut back for substitute Laryea Kingston to roll the ball into the empty net.
Now that really was that.
Hearts: MacDonald; Neilson, Jonsson, Berra, Wallace; Obua, Karipidis, Stewart, Driver; Aguiar (Glen 63); Nade (Kingston 85). Subs not used: Kello, Mrowiec, Cesnauskis, Thomson, McGowan.
Inverness: Esson; Gathuessi (Proctor 18), Mihadjuks, Munro, McBain; Cowie, Duncan, Tokely, Vigurs (McGuire 75), Imrie; Wood (Rooney 84). Booked: Tokely, Imrie, Wood. Sent off: McBain. Subs not used: Fraser, Black, Barrowman, Gillespie.
Referee: Steve Conroy
Top man: Andrew Driver
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