Hearts 6-1 Ross County

22 April 2023

Steven Naismith made five changes to the side that started last weekend’s Edinburgh derby. Nathaniel Atkinson, Alex Cochrane, Peter Haring, Josh Ginnelly and Yutaro Oda replaced Michael Smith, Stephen Kingsley, Jorge Grant, Alan Forrest and Andy Halliday.

Interim manager Naismith has recently spoken about getting Hearts back to playing on the front foot and they did just that in the early exchanges against the Staggies, much to the delight of the Gorgie faithful.

The first clear-cut chance arrived on 10 minutes when a lovely through ball from Barrie McKay found Cochrane in an advanced position, he pulled the ball back for the onrushing Oda, but he scuffed his shot just wide.

McKay was next to try his luck when volleying over from distance after a neat layoff from Shankland.

The Jambos’ early pressure deserved a goal, and it arrived on 17 minutes from the right boot of Alex Cochrane. After neat play involving Lawrence Shankland and Ginnelly, the ball was laid off to Cochrane who lashed the ball into the corner from just outside the box.

The visitors were on the ropes and the second Hearts goal arrived just four minutes later. A lovely through ball from Cammy Devlin picked out Ginnelly, he cut back inside and curled the ball perfectly into the top corner and having originally been ruled out for offside, a VAR review showed the Hearts forwards initial run to have been onside and the goal subsequently awarded.

There was no let up from Hearts, and Shankland bagged his 23rd goal of the season just before the half-hour mark. Cochrane this time turned provider and his deep cross was intelligently nodded back across the goal by Hearts’ number nine, leaving Ross Laidlaw stranded as the ball nestled in the bottom corner.

It’s the Hearts Player of the Year Awards on Sunday night and although it’ll be tough to beat Stephen Humphrys in the Goal of the Month category, Shankland certainly would have run him close had it not been for a matter of inches. Another intelligent run saw Shankland in behind the County backline and a first-time lob from an improbable angle had Laidlaw beaten but the ball came back off the crossbar.

In truth, the half-time score could have been anything and after Devlin was denied by a smart stop down low by Laidlaw, Shankland was given the opportunity to add a fourth from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.

The Hearts striker was tripped by County defender Dylan Smith and after referee Don Robertson was sent over to the VAR screen, a spot-kick was awarded. Shankland stepped up, and although Laidlaw guessed right, there was too much power in his strike, which sent Hearts down the tunnel with a four-goal advantage.

Half-time: Hearts 4-0 Ross County

The visitors had offered next to nothing in the first half, but they almost got themselves on the board seven minutes after the interval. Substitute Jack Baldwin’s long throw was flicked on by Alex Iacovitti and Jordan White was waiting at the back post, but his header came back off the crossbar.

Hearts were soon back on the attack though and Ginnelly added a fifth after 56 minutes. Moving from left to right, he skipped away from his man, before unleashing a bullet of a shot from 20-yards that flew right into the bottom corner.

Just three minutes later, it was six! Oda’s performance deserved a goal and after charging into the box and letting fly, his blocked shot fell to Shankland, who cutely chipped the ball exquisitely into the top corner to bag his hat-trick.

There was no sign of Hearts slowing up either, and somehow a seventh goal evaded the men in maroon just minutes later. Oda again was at the heart of it, finding Ginnelly, who’s shot was saved by Laidlaw, but on the rebound, in came the charging Devlin, who’s effort was palmed onto the bar by Laidlaw and hacked away to safety.

County grabbed a consolation six minutes from time, when Owura Edwards was brought down in the penalty box by Cochrane, the County sub stepped up and sent Zander Clark the wrong way, but the afternoon belonged to the men in maroon.

Hearts: Clark, Haring (Halliday, 75), Shankland © (Grant, 75), Atkinson, Devlin (Kio, 66), Rowles, McKay, Cochrane, Sibbick, Ginnelly (Humphrys, 66), Oda.

Subs: Stewart, Kingsley, Grant, Kiomourtzoglou, Halliday, Forrest, Humphrys, Kuol, Hill.

Ross County: Laidlaw, Randall, Iacovitti, Smith, Harmon, Cancola, Loturi, Kenneh, Sims, Murray, White

Subs: Munro, Baldwin, Owura, Dhanda, Watson, Hiwula, Tillson, A. Samuel, Stones