Hearts signed off a successful week on the road with a deserved 1-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall this afternoon.
Alan Forrest’s second-half header, from a sweet Alex Lowry delivery, made it two wins from two away from Tynecastle this week – with a mouth-watering showdown against Hibs in next Saturday’s Edinburgh derby on the horizon. Steven Naismith’s Jambos were well-worth the win at the Global Energy Stadium; fashioning a number of good chances across the 90 minutes.
Naismith made a number of tweaks to the side that eliminated Kilmarnock from the Viaplay Cup on Tuesday: a back three of Rowles, Kent and Sibbick sat behind a central pairing of Nieuwenhof and Denholm – with Shankland and Vargas tasked with leading the line up front.
The men in maroon dominated possession in the opening exchanges: showing a real willingness to move the ball quickly as they questioned the County defence. A fine chance fell the way of Stephen Kingsley after eight minutes: a lofted free kick from Jorge Grant slipping past a sea of Staggies shirt to find the defender unmarked at the post. Under pressure from Baldwin, he fired high and wide over the bar.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of the ball, a compact County side was alert to shutting down Hearts’ attacking avenues: Aidan Denholm seeing a chance go over the bar before a fine stop from Ross Laidlaw denied a wicked Jorge Grant drive as the game approached the half-hour mark.
Hearts kept at it but still struggled to find the net. The best chance of the half falling to Lawrence Shankland on the cusp of half-time: rolling his marker brilliantly before sending a curling effort at Laidlaw which sneaked agonisingly wide.
HALF-TIME: ROSS COUNTY 0-0 HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN
The chances kept tumbling from the Dingwall sky as play resumed from the second 45, but County proved once again that they were the toughest of nuts to crack.
Odel Offiah and Toby Sibbick both tested Laidlaw with speculative efforts without much success. A change in approach was required and the introduction of Alan Forrest and Alex Lowry to the game brought some more spark.
Pouncing on the end of a good delivery from Vargas, the freshly introduced Alan Forrest quickly went close, but poked narrowly wide. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a taste of what was to come.
Alex Lowry, taking up a fine position on the left, swept the ball across goal with a magnificent hit on 70 minutes. Forrest was perhaps an unlikely candidate for a bullet-header, but the winger showed real composure to stick his head on the delivery and guide the ball past Laidlaw!
Hearts held their nerve for the remaining time and took a worthy three points back to the capital.
Ross County: Laidlaw, Randall, Purrington, Brown, Baldwin, Turner (Allardice 64’), Dhanda (Loturi 64’), Turner, Samuel (Brophy 45’), White (Murray 45’), Nightingale, Leak
Subs: Munro, Allardice, Loturi, Murray, Harmon, Henderson, High, Brophy, Smith
Hearts: Clark, Offiah (Forrest 55’), Sibbick, Kent, Rowles, Kingsley, Denholm (Lowry 55’), Nieuwenhof, Grant (Halliday 72’), Shankland, Vargas (Boyce 83’)
Subs: McGovern, Haring, Baningime, Boyce, Halliday, Forrest, Tait, Kirk, Lowry