Match Report: Ross County 1-2 Hearts

30 October 2022

Lawrence Shankland and Andy Halliday maintained their scoring runs with first-half strikes to ensure Hearts got back to winning ways in the Premiership, with a result that takes HMFC back into the top six in sixth place
The Jambos arrived in Dingwall with a handful of changes to the side that defeated RFS at Tynecastle Park on Thursday night; Jorge Grant was ill overnight and only fit enough to make the bench – clearing the way for Connor Smith to make a first team start, his first since 2019. Robert Snodgrass was also back in the team, joining Orestis Kio and Connor Smith in the midfield.
Toby Sibbick and Alex Cochrane occupied the central defensive positions, whilst Michael Smith and Andy Halliday filled out the full-back spots of right and left respectively. Leading the line was Lawrence Shankland, ably flanked by Barrie McKay and Josh Ginnelly to round off the 4-3-3 formation.
Ross County were first to land a punch. A sweet reverse pass from Jordy Hiwula sent Callum Johnson through – eyeing up goal before launching a daisy cutter at Craig Gordon that prompted a quick reaction save. Edwards-Owura launched the ball back into the mixer with Hiwula stooping to nod County in front. A VAR check was given however, and the goal was soon chopped off, with Jordan White judged to have been offside in the build-up.
County kept plugging away and soon claimed the opening goal with 11 minutes played. Yan Dhanda worked his way down the right side before launching a teasing cross into the box. Jordan White was there again, shaking the attentions of the Hearts defence to bundle the ball over the line past Craig Gordon.
On his first start in three years, young Connor Smith had a hand in Hearts’ equaliser. After driving directly into the County box and causing havoc, he opted to cut back for an incoming Shankland whose initial effort was blocked. Unperturbed, he lined up goal again and unleashed a clean, powerful strike that rattled into the bottom right corner of the County net.
Within minutes, the boys in maroon would have their second of the afternoon. A corner was won, clearing the way for Robert Snodgrass to preside over its delivery. Swinging in a nice, high ball into the box – Andy Halliday leapt like a salmon and wrapped his head around it with superb power and accuracy, a looping effort to send Hearts into the lead and make it two in two for our number sixteen.
After a spell of Hearts dominance with the ball in the aftermath of the goal, County eventually fashioned their next best chance on the half-hour mark. Jordan White showed some nice footwork to control the ball under pressure in the box and despatched another low effort at Gordon to no avail.
Whilst the Jambos continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, County were not without their moments as they hunted for an equaliser. First, Andy Halliday made a vital slide tackle to see out a dangerous Dhanda ball before Callum Johnson’s header sailed over the crossbar after he worked his way through a flurry of maroon shirts.
Hearts had a potential third goal chopped off in bizarre circumstances. Alex Cochrane stole the ball off a dithering Hiwula before feeding through to Shankland in the area. Our number nine took the shot, but a County block saw it spin high into the air before returning to Earth and crossing the line.
A VAR check was taken, and replays showed that Shankland was a fraction ahead of play during the build-up, with the referee taking the decision to disallow the goal due to offside. A sore one for the JTs, but…
Substitute Lewis Neilson drove play forward marvellously with a marauding run, threading the ball across to Michael Smith on the right. He played the short ball to fellow sub Alan Forrest who dashed for the byline and flashed the ball across the face of goal – with no maroon takers at that moment.
County sub Victor Loturi played a pin-point accurate cross into the Hearts area causing no shortage of mayhem, with Jordan White closing in for the kill, the ball shot out of play – missing the County striker’s boot by mere inches.
With ten minutes to go until full-time: County crafted another well-executed chance and again Craig Gordon produced an impressive save. A floated delivery into the Hearts box was cushioned down brilliantly by Dom Samuel – who spun on his heels and unleashed a mean shot at Gordon – with our number one throwing himself down to push it away and keep County at bay for another day.
Up next for the Jambos; a trip to Istanbul.
Ross County: Laidlaw, Cancola (Loturi 55’), Baldwin, Iacovitti, Edwards-Owura (Watson 81’), Dhanda, Johnson, Harmon (Samuel 81’), Hiwula (Olaigbe 75’),Tillson (Sims 81’), White
Subs: Eastwood, Samuel, Sims, Loturi, Watson, Olaigbe, Akio, Munro, Smith
Hearts: Gordon, M. Smith, Kiomourtzoglou, Shankland, Halliday (Neilson 59’), McKay (Henderson 74’), Cochrane, Sibbick, C. Smith (Forrest 59’), Ginnelly (Grant 59’), Snodgrass
Subs: Stewart, Clark, Grant, Forrest, Neilson, Henderson, Darge, Denholm, Pollock
Attendance: 4,438