A goal in each half from Lawrence Shankland helped Hearts on their way to a dominant 2-0 victory over St Mirren at Tynecastle Park on Saturday.
Steven Naismith made three changes to the side that defeated Celtic last time out. Craig Halkett, Barrie McKay and Yutaro Oda replaced Stephen Kingsley, Jorge Grant and Alan Forrest.
Buoyed by last week’s result at Celtic Park, Hearts were fast out the traps and after a foul on Aidan Denholm on the edge of the box, Alex Cochrane curled the resulting free kick just wide inside the opening two minutes.
Lawrence Shankland has already bagged 8 cinch Premiership goals this season and after a perfect zipped pass from McKay picked out the number nine, his low shot was well blocked by Richard Taylor.
Denholm was a bundle of energy in the early exchanges, and he almost supplied the opening goal on 15 minutes, when his volley swerved just wide of Zach Hemming’s goal.
For all of the Jambos’ determination, Hemming hadn’t really been tested, but the Buddies stopper was picking the ball out of his net just before the half hour mark.
Alex Cochrane showed great tenacity down the left, before digging out the perfect cross for Shankland, who was unmarked at the back post. The Hearts striker doesn’t miss chances like that, and he stooped to head home the opener.
The men in maroon continued to look the more threatening and another chance came and went seven minutes from the interval. Yutaro Oda’s inviting delivery was met by a late run into the box by Denholm, but he couldn’t get enough power on his flick to trouble Hemming.
Half-time: Hearts 1-0 St Mirren
The message in the Hearts dressing room at the break would’ve been to grab the second goal that would put the Jambos within touching distance of the three points.
And just four minutes into the second half, the men in maroon did exactly that, thanks to who else but Shankland.
Barrie McKay was positive down the left wing and when his outside of the foot pass was flicked into the path of Shankland, the Hearts striker took one touch to control before lashing the ball with his left-foot straight into the top corner.
Shankland almost bagged the match ball on 57 minutes when Baningime slid the ball into his his path, but Hemming got down well to his left to tip his shot round the post.
The Buddies had struggled to create chances all afternoon, but they will have been wondering how they didn’t halve the deficit just after the hour mark as firstly Zander Clark clawed away an Alex Gogic header, before Kye Rowles was in the right place to clear Thierry Small’s effort off the line.
Macaulay Tait came on in the final moments for his Tynecastle debut, replacing the impressive Denholm and he should’ve grabbed his first senior goal when Hemming presented the ball into his path, but his low shot was saved by the goalkeeper.
It was a dominant Hearts performance from start to finish and they saw out the closing stages to secure three points and another clean sheet to ensure they enter Wednesday’s Edinburgh Derby full of confidence.
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Halkett, Baningime, Shankland, Oda (Forrest, 65), Atkinson (Sibbick, 73), Rowles, McKay (Nieuwenhof, 65), Cochrane, Denholm
Subs: Gordon, Kingsley, Haring, Nieuwenhof, Forrest, Sibbick, Tait, Tagawa, Vargas
St Mirren: Hemming, Tanser, Taylor, O’Hara © (Boyd-Munce, 73), Ayunga (62, Nachmani), Kiltie, (Jamieson, 62) Gogic, Small (Mandron, 73), Baccus, Grieve (Olusanya, 62), Fraser
Subs: Urminsky, Bolton, Flynn, Mandron, Boyd-Munce, Dunne, Nachmani, Olusanya, Jamieson