Heart of Midlothian 2-0 Ross County
Hearts continued their recent run of good form with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Ross County at Tynecastle on Saturday.
Jamie Hamill's second-half penalty and Dale Carrick's stoppage time strike was enough to seal all three points for the men in maroon, though the match wasn't without controversy as Hamill received his marching orders following a stramash during the aftermath of the goal.
The Jambos lined-up with an attacking 4-4-1-1 formation, with Sam Nicholson and Billy King occupying the flanks while Ryan Stevenson played off Carrick up front.
With playing conditions perfect, Hearts set about trying to pass their way up the pitch, making particular use of the wings.
Stevenson was first to try his luck at goal in the 7th minute, but his curling right-foot shot from 20 yards flew just wide of the target.
Derby heroes Carrick and King combined to produce the best chance of the opening quarter. Carrick spun away from his man on the bye-line before slipping in King, and though the Hearts No. 19 found himself clean through inside the box, he elected to pass when the shot looked on, with Stevenson being tackled before he could carve up a shooting opportunity.
Ross County grew into the game as the first half progressed but were being limited to shots from distance by the Hearts defence. Filip Kiss tested Jamie MacDonald after the half hour mark with a shot from outside the box and although it was a tame effort, it took MacDonald two attempts to gather.
Long range efforts appeared to be the order of the day and Stevenson continued to hit them from distance. King fed him at the edge of the box on 38 minutes and the skipper, with his back to goal, took a touch and swivelled before lashing his effort wide.
No changes at half time meant it was as you were, and that reflected in general play as well as both teams continued at the same pace displayed in the first half.
A lovely passing move saw Graham Carey get to the edge of the box with the goal in his sight, but he scooped the ball high over the crossbar from 18 yards.
The best opportunity of the match fell to Nicholson after 62 minutes when he and King exchanged a neat one-two at the edge of the box, but Mark Brown saved as Sam tried to slip his shot underneath him.
The game exploded into life minutes later as Hearts were awarded a penalty when Kevin McHattie was brought down from behind in the area by Kiss. Jamie Hamill stepped up and slammed the ball high into the roof of the net to give the Jambos the lead. Despite being shoved by County's Yann Songo'o in the aftermath, Hamill received a second yellow after a confrontation with County manager Derek Adams.
Brown was on hand again to keep the visitors in the game, this time he saved with his legs from substitute Scott Robinson's rocket shot inside the box in the 75th minute.
It was backs to the wall stuff for the final five minutes, but Gary Locke's side secured all three points in stoppage time when Robinson middled for Carrick to strike high and beyond Brown in the County goal.
Hearts: MacDonald; Paterson, McGowan, McKay, McHattie; King (Robinson, 69'), Hamill, Holt, Nicholson (Smith, 76'); Stevenson (Walker, 57'), Carrick. Subs: Ridgers, McGhee, Beith, Oliver.
Ross County: Brown, Boyd, Kiss, Brittain, Quinn (Saunders, 85'), Tidser (Cooper, 76'), Carey, Slew, Oikonomu, Sango'o. Subs: Fraser, Gordon, Kettlewell, MacLeod, McLean.
Referee: Willie Collum
Top man: Sam Nicholson
Today on HeartsTV - EXCLUSIVE post-match reaction from Gary Locke.