2021/22 Season Review: July24 May 2022
Peterhead 0-2 Hearts
The Jambos opened up the 2021/22 with their Premier Sports Cup campaign at Peterhead’s Balmoor Stadium.
Keen to avoid a slip up at a tricky venue, Robbie Neilson’s men controlled the game from start to finish.
The opener came just after the half hour mark and it was via some individual brilliance from Gary Mackay-Steven. Stephen Kingsley played a ball forward to the winger who won a header ahead of his marker, ran into it, burst past a second defender, drew the keeper out and slipped it into the corner.
It was 2-0 and game over on 58 minutes. Peter Haring played a superb ball over the top to Michael Smith whose first touch took the defender out of the play, and he squared for Liam Boyce to tap in at the back post.
Hearts 3-0 Cove Rangers
It was two League Cup wins from two in the space of four days as Tynecastle welcomed back supporters for the first time in 494 days due to the Scottish Government’s Covid restrictions.
It took Andy Halliday on 12 minutes to open his account for the season. John Souttar pinged a ball from right to left for Alex Cochrane, with the full back laying the ball to Josh Ginnelly, who squared for Halliday 25 yards out, and his low daisy cutter nestled in the side netting.
Right on half-time, Hearts got the second goal their play deserved. After a sustained period of pressure, Ginnelly laid the ball back to Smith who crossed the ball in to the area, with Kyle Gourlay only able to clear straight to Boyce who finished into an empty net.
10 minutes after the restart it was 3-0. Mackay-Steven picked the pocket of Scott Ross on the edge of the area following a short goal kick, steadied himself and buried a shot from the edge of the area to score in style.
So far, so good.
Stirling Albion 0-2 Hearts
A week later, the men in maroon - or rather, Inter Milan-style black and blue - scored their position at the top of Group A with a victory at Forthbank, which took them through to the next round with a game to spare.
it was a moment of brilliance that opened the deadlock. Mackay-Steven collected a pass from Boyce at the edge of the area, held his marker and back-heeled the ball through the defender’s legs back to Boyce who composed himself before finishing from close range.
A second arrived with 16 minutes to go. Mackay-Steven saw a shot blocked, and from the rebound, Cochrane squared the ball across goal for Finlay Pollock to tap in and net his first senior goal.
Hearts 1-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
3,000 Hearts fans watched the Jam Tarts complete a group stage clean sweep at a sunkissed Tynecastle Park.
Hearts finally got the breakthrough with 15 minutes remaining, when Armand Gnanduillet won a flick-on at the halfway line and set up a two-on-one breakaway. Boyce controlled the ball brilliantly, and slipped a precise pass through to substitute Jamie Walker, who had been on the park for ten minutes.
Walker’s touch set it up on his left foot and he arrowed a low shot powerfully into the near post beyond Mark Ridgers. It was a moment of real quality, which was required to beat the impressive former Hearts stopper.
Next up, the league opener against Celtic…
Hearts 2-1 Celtic
Robbie’s boys raised the curtain, and Championship flag, on the cinch Premiership season with a dramatic win over Celtic.
Government restrictions now allowed 5,000 home fans through the turnstiles but those in attendance made it seem like there was a full house for this Saturday night game.
That noise only increased when, after a high-tempo start, Hearts deservedly took the lead. Souttar stepped out of defence, and played a pass down the line for Ginnelly. Gino’s touch took him past Celtic debutant Carl Starfelt, and he cut the ball back for Boyce. Boyce seemed to be crowded out but managed to poke the ball across goal for Mackay-Steven to tap in at the back post, sending Tynecastle into raptures.
After the break, Celtic levelled. Anthony Ralston was given time and space and waltzed through a gap in the Hearts defence before finishing well past Craig Gordon.
With one minute remaining, the roof well and truly came off. Smith whipped a free kick in from the left flank, and Souttar rose highest in the box to power a header home beyond Scott Bain, who was caught in no man’s land due to the quality of the delivery. There was bedlam in the stands, but the game wasn’t won yet.
James Forrest and Edouard produced a slick one-two in the 93rd minute and sent the winger through on goal. Tynecastle went silent as it seemed the inevitable sucker punch was coming, but Gordon flew out of his goal and somehow diverted the strike over the bar.
From the resulting corner, Starfelt powered a header at goal but Gordon dived to his left to tip the ball away, and that would be that for the visitors as referee Bobby Madden called time on a famous night in Gorgie.
Five games in July and five wins, which set the tone for things to come…