Dundee Utd 4-1 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts were beaten 4-1 by Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday, though the scoreline may have flattered the hosts.
Jamie Hamill got the Jambos back on level terms after falling behind to an Armstrong strike, but second half efforts from Graham, Mackay-Steven and Rankin ensured that all three points stayed in Dundee.
The gaffer elected to put Callum Tapping into a three man midfield as David Smith moved to the bench following last weekend's Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic.
A keenly fought battle in midfield meant that the ball was kept away from either team's penalty area, until Ryan Gauld teed himself up in the 12 minute for a 25 yard half volley that Jamie Macdonald had to scramble back in order to palm over the bar.
Four minutes later the home side took the lead. Gary Mackay-Steven chipped a delightful ball into the path of Stuart Armstrong, and he stroked his shot home from the edge of the six yard box despite the best efforts of the oncoming MacDonald.
That lead didn't last long however, as a brilliant spin and turn away from Scott Robinson in the 20th minute saw the ball released to Jamie Walker, and as the wide man cut inside the was brought down by Mark Wilson just inside the box. Referee Craig Thomson pointed to the spot and Jamie Hamill stepped up to send Radoslaw Cierzniak the wrong way.
Hearts began to play with confidence, with Jamie Walker in particular causing Utd problems down the left. Both Hamill and Robinson tried their luck from distance around the half hour mark, though neither could find the target.
United could've taken the lead again just before half time when the ball broke at the edge of the box as a result of Danny Wilson's sliding interception. Brian Graham showed quick feet to open up a space for himself at the penalty spot, but he could only blast wildly over at the crucial moment.
Two minutes after the restart, the home side were denied by a spectacular save from MacDonald. John Rankin blasted a shot from 35 yards, but the Hearts no.1 threw himself in front of the ball to turn it over with one hand.
Unfortunately for the Jambos, Dundee United regained the lead only a minute later. Graham rose to meet a corner unchallenged and his bullet header flew into the back of the net, despite some strong protestations from a few white shirts who claimed that Paterson was fouled in the build up to the goal.
The game then resumed its earlier midfield battle, and it wasn't until the 70th minute that someone went close. That someone was Mackay-Steven, who showed a great turn of pace to accelerate away from his man before cutting inside and firing just wide from the edge of the D.
Though MacDonald was able to deny Armstrong with a diving save on 84 minutes, he was helpless when Mackay-Steven curled a stunning effort into the back of the net from 18 yards, as the home side extended their lead.
Hearts' afternoon didn't get better, as John Rankin's last minute shot took a heavy deflection off a white shirt on its way in past MacDonald.
Dundee Utd: Cierzniak; Wilson (Watson, 89'), Dillon, Souttar, Robertson (Gomis, 89'); Paton, Rankin, Gauld, Armstrong; Graham (Goodwillie, 85'), Mackay-Steven. Subs: McCallum, Butcher, Dow, Erskine.
Hearts: MacDonald; McGhee, McGowan, Wilson, McHattie; Robinson, Hamill, Tapping (B. King, 66'); Paterson, Stevenson (Carrick, 74'), Walker. Subs: Hamilton, McKay, Smith, A.King, Nicholson.
Referee: Craig Thomson
Top man: Jamie Walker
Today on HeartsTV - EXCLUSIVE post-match reaction from Gary Locke.