Heart of Midlothian 0-1 Kilmarnock
Saturday 5th October 2019, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts fell to defeat against Kilmarnock in today’s Ladbrokes Premiership encounter, as a Chris Burke goal just before half-time proved the difference between the sides.
Craig Levein made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 with St Mirren last week. Craig Halkett dropped out the side - fresh from the news that he would be missing until the end of the year with a knee injury - along with Cal Morrison, Steven MacLean and Uche Ikpeazu, who was suffering from a tight hamstring.
The Jambos lined up in a 3-5-2 formation but with the lack of front men available Ryo Meshino and Sean Clare led the line, with Clevid Dikamona coming into the heart of defence along with skipper Christophe Berra and emergency sweeper Michael Smith, while Andy Irving came into the midfield alongside Glenn Whelan and Loic Damour.
Killie threatened early when Chris Burke had the ball on the right flank and whipped in a dangerous cross that evaded Christophe Berra, but Liam Millar headed over under pressure. Hearts, meanwhile, had their first effort on goal after a Loic Damour cross was headed tamely at goal by Sean Clare.
Damour had a more substantial effort on goal after about 20 minutes, when he received the ball on the edge of the area after some sustained Hearts pressure and possession but, although his effort had power, it was too central and was collected comfortably by Killie stopper Laurentiu Branescu, the on-loan Juventus keeper doing well to hold the ball on a wet surface.
Hearts then had a glorious chance to open the scoring after half an hour. Following a weaving run down the right wing by Clevid Dikamona that won a corner, Clare played a short corner into the area to Jake Mulraney who teed up Glenn Whelan, but from 12 yards the Irish midfielder blazed the ball over the bar as he perhaps opted for power over placement.
The visitors did take the lead just before the half. Niko Hamalainen found space down the left wing, and curled in a precise cross that Mulraney was caught under, allowing Burke to head home from close range to open the scoring on 42 minutes.
At the interval, the manager shuffled his pack and introduced Steven MacLean, switching to a more traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. The change almost paid dividends immediately when Meshino found space 20 yards out, and his low effort was spilled by Branescu.
Moments later, Mulraney whipped in a cross to the back post but Michael Smith didn’t react quick enough, as the ball hit off him and rolled to Branescu.
Killie then had an unbelievable chance to double their lead, when Alan Power slid the ball in behind the Hearts defence for Liam Millar to run onto. The on-loan Liverpool forward cut inside and squared the ball to Eamonn Brophy, who brought the ball onto his left foot but Aaron Hickey cleared the ball off the line and dribbled away to safety, showing great coolness under pressure.
Hearts were now enjoying the majority of pressure and possession as the game entered its final stages, with Kilmarnock content to sit and counter on the break.
Meshino did come close, with 15 minutes remaining, after Mulraney found him with a clever pass inside the area but the Japanese starlet’s powerful effort was just over the crossbar and out for a goal kick. Killie then countered and Millar used his pace to get in behind Smith before cutting it back to sub Dom Thomas who dribbled across the area before firing wide of the post.
Craig Levein introduced Aidan Keena to the fold, switching formation once more to a 4-4-2 and the switch almost immediately paid off. Keena found Michael Smith on the right, who played a good ball into the area that was met by sub Ollie Bozanic, but the Australian could only head over the bar from around 12 yards.
Then, Meshino won a corner that he played into the area, the ball was flicked on by Berra but Dikamona failed to convert at the back post. With that, Hearts' best chance to equalise was gone and Kilmarnock held on for the win.
Hearts: Pereira; Smith, Berra, Dikamona; Hickey, Whelan, Damour (Bozanic, 27'), Irving (MacLean, 46'), Mulraney (Keena, 79'), Clare, Meshino.
Subs: Doyle, White, Brandon, Morrison.
Kilmarnock: Branescu; O'Donnell, Del Fabro, Findlay, Hamalainen; El Makrini, Power, Dicker; Burke (McKenzie, 77'), Brophy (Thomas, 65'), Millar (Bruce, 90')
Subs: Koprivec, Hendrie, Wilson, St Clair.
Referee: Alan Muir
Attendance: 16, 711