Hearts 3-1 Kilmarnock17 December 2022
Robbie Neilson was able to welcome Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley back into his three-man defence in place of Toby Sibbick and the suspended Kye Rowles. Andy Halliday also returned in place of Orestis Kiomortzoglou in the third change from the 1-1 draw against Livingston last time out.
The men in maroon were dominating possession in the early stages of the match and the returning Halliday had the first sight at goal for the Jambos, 11 minutes in. Josh Ginnelly made ground down the left and his deep cross was eventually teed up for Halliday, who curled the ball straight at Sam Walker in the Killie goal.
Just eight minutes later, Hearts opened the scoring with a goal out of nothing. A hopeful high ball forward from Stephen Kingsley was misjudged by Joe Wright and Josh Ginnelly took his time before volleying the ball into the ground and past Walker.
After an edgy start, that goal had settled Hearts down and Ginnelly almost doubled his tally for the afternoon when racing on to a ball in behind, but this time, he dragged his shot just wide.
It had been pretty much one-way traffic since the opener and the second Hearts goal arrived after 28 minutes. After Liam Donnelly was booked for a foul on Halliday, Snodgrass clipped in the free-kick and Lawrence Shankland was waiting to head home his 13th goal of the season.
Alex Cochrane thought he had added a third, ten minutes from the interval, but he was denied by the long arm of the linesman.
Hearts were turning on the style as we edged towards half-time and Ginnelly once again came close to rounding off a lovely Hearts move but fired his shot just wide.
Up the other end, Craig Gordon was called into action for the first time, beating away a long-range effort from Polworth, before Liam Donnelly came even closer for the visitors when heading an inviting delivery just wide, as the visitors had a late flurry to no avail in the final minutes of the half.
Half-time: Hearts 2-0 Kilmarnock
As the saying goes with 2-0 scorelines, the next goal was of huge importance, and it was Hearts who almost found it through Halliday just two minutes into the second half. The men in maroon worked the ball from right to left and Devlin, teed up Halliday, whose sweet strike on the edge of the box was magnificently saved by Walker.
The visitors had looked at their most dangerous from set plays all game and it gave them a route back into the contest after 72 minutes. A deep free-kick was delivered from the right and Ash Taylor arrived late to slide the ball low past Craig Gordon to halve the deficit.
Suddenly, there was a real nervousness around Tynecastle as the visitors sensed an unlikely result. Barrie McKay almost restored Hearts’ two-goal lead, but his goalbound effort was deflected just wide as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Three minutes from time, any nerves amongst the home support were quashed, as Hearts restored their two-goal lead from the penalty spot. Joe Wright was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box and Shankland stepped up to coolly slot home and secure the three points.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Kingsley, Halkett, Shankland, Devlin (Kiomourtzoglou, 78), Halliday (Forrest 90), McKay (Sibbick, 90), Cochrane, Ginnelly (Grant, 78), Snodgrass (C. Smith, 90)
Subs: Clark, Grant, Kiomourtzoglou, Atkinson, Forrest, Neilson, Sibbick, Henderson, Smith
Kilmarnock: Walker, Mayo (Alebiosu, 85), Power, Taylor, McKenzie (Murray, 67), Armstrong, Wright, McInroy (Chrisene, 46), Donnelly, Wales (Robinson, 67), Polworth (Doidge, 46)
Subs: Hemming, Alston, Jones, Murray, Robinson, Alebiosu, Doidge, Chrisene, Shaw