Kilmarnock 2-1 Hearts04 January 2023
Robbie Neilson made three changes to the side that faced Aberdeen a fortnight ago. Stephen Kingsley, Jorge Grant and Alan Forrest all came into the side in place of James Hill, Alex Cochrane and Barrie McKay.
The home side edged the opening stages and spurned a couple of half chances, as firstly, Kyle Vassell fired wide from a tight angle after Killie made first contact from a long-throw, before Joe Wright got his head to a back post delivery but couldn’t find the target.
It was the men in maroon who drew first blood through Lawrence Shankland after just 6 minutes. A misplaced pass from Jeriel Dorsett went straight to Shankland, who ignored Josh Ginnelly out wide and let fly across goal with his effort nestling perfectly in the bottom corner.
The home side restored parity after 21 minutes when Kyle Vassell was brought down by Zander Clark. Danny Armstrong stepped up and sent Clark the wrong way to draw Killie level.
It had been an opening 45 with very few clear-cut opportunities, but the home side took the lead in the final seconds of the half when Armstrong’s wicked cross from the left found its way to Christian Doidge to bundle the ball home and send the home side down the tunnel with the lead.
Half-time: Kilmarnock 2-1 Hearts
Hearts were forced into a change at half-time as Zander Clark was unable to continue and was replaced by Ross Stewart, whereas further forward, Barrie McKay was introduced in place of Kio.
The Jambos were facing an uphill task to turn this game around, but they were given a lifeline when Rory McKenzie was shown a straight red card on the hour mark following a VAR check for a tackle on Grant.
Stephen Humphrys and Alex Cochrane were introduced as the men in maroon prepared to throw everything at Kilmarnock for the remaining 25 minutes.
The chances were starting to arrive for Hearts, and they were falling to Shankland, who had two quick-fire opportunities, both well saved by Sam Walker.
Brad Lyons almost added a third for Killie after picking the pocket of Robert Snodgrass, but Stewart beat his effort to safety.
The Jambos continued to see plenty of possession in the closing stages without seriously testing Sam Walker, as the home side held out to secure all three points.
Kilmarnock: Walker, Mayo, Dorsett, Wright, Armstrong, Donnelly, Watson, McKenzie ©, Jones, Vassell, Doidge
Subs: Hemming, Taylor, Alebiosu, Chambers, Power, Alston, Lyons, Murray, Robinson
Hearts: Clark (Stewart, 46), Smith, Kingsley (Cochrane, 65), Grant, Kio (McKay, 46), Shankland ©, Rowles, Forrest (Humphrys, 65), Sibbick, Ginnelly (Oda, 80), Snodgrass
Subs: Stewart, Atkinson, Halliday, McKay, Cochrane, Humphrys, Kuol, Hill, Oda