2021/22 Season Review: September26 May 2022
Hearts 0-0 Hibs
The month of September began with an Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle. Hearts last faced Hibs in October 2020 – with the Jambos defeating Hibs 2-1 at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final, with the last league encounter coming in March 2020.
This was a game where the keepers were on top, with both Craig Gordon and Matt Macey pulled off fine stops in their respective goals in a closely-matched contest in Gorgie. Whilst Hearts had to settle for a point on the day, it maintained the men in maroon's unbeaten start to the season.
Martin Boyle went close twice for Hibs before Kyle Magennis was denied by some trademark excellence from Craigy G. At the other end of the park, Gary Mackay-Steven saw three chances thwarted by Hibs' English stopper. Meanwhile, a Ben Woodburn rasper and Stephen Kingsley's corner routine were all beaten away in a frenetic encounter.
With no goals to report, bragging rights in the capital were put on ice for another day.
Ross County 2-2 Hearts
Up next was a trip to Dingwall for a Highland fling with Malky Mackay's Ross County. The Staggies had endured a sluggish start to the season, but two first-half goals from Blair Spittal had them on course for three points.
Hearts capitalised on an early miss from Ross Callachan to hit County on the counter. The JTs stormed up the park in a sweeping move, which culminated in Gary Mackay-Steven slipping in Liam Boyce whose deflected finish opened the scoring against his former employers with nine minutes on the clock.
This slender lead wasn't to last for long though. Ross County responded quickly - Jordan White showed real guile in his hold-up play to open up a lay off to Spittal, who pounced to steer an effort from the edge of the area into the far corner past Gordon.
Hearts were in the mood for more, and could easily have opened up a greater advantage. Barrie McKay was a menace; terrorising the County defence before seeing two close range efforts battered away by the County back-three. Armand Gnanduillet was up next to try his luck - forcing two good saves out of Ashley Maynard-Brewer before the first 45 was through.
But it was County who struck on the cusp of half-time, Regan Charles-Cook dashing for the byline before sliding the ball across the face of goal to Spittal for his second of the game.
It was Stephen Kingsley who emerged as the hero of the day - curling home a magnificent free kick after 62 minutes to ensure Hearts returned down the A9 with a valuable point.
Hearts 3-0 Livingston
Hearts rounded off September with a convincing win over David Martindale's Livingston - a win that took them to second and within a point of the Premiership summit.
Livi proved to be stubborn opposition on a bright day in Gorgie, frustrating Hearts from both open play and set-pieces. This resistance was undone by Barrie McKay, who promptly sent James Penrice to wrong way with a delightful move near the byline. The resulting cross pinged it's way to the back post for a waiting Alex Cochrane, who fed the ball back to Michael Smith, with the defender smashing the ball into the top corner from just inside the area after 25 minutes.
The boys in maroon had the wind in their sails by this point, and it was just a matter of time before the second of the afternoon arrived. The now relentless Cammy Devlin was tripped in the area as Hearts drove at Livi, before releasing the ball with a poke to Beni Baningime.
Beni was next to be tripped by a Livi shirt, leaving referee Gavin Duncan with little option but to award a penalty. Liam Boyce stepped up and converted from the spot, putting real power on his strike and sending Max Stryjek the wrong way.
Stryjek was a busy man that afternoon, and it was to be into the second half before Hearts killed the game off with a third goal. The irrepresible Barrie McKay was the architect once again, moving quickly to hammer the ball across the face of goal for Cochrane to sneak inside to the back post, tapping into an empty net to grab the decisive third.
A fine afternoon's work as a busy October schedule loomed...