Heart of Midlothian 2-0 Livingston
Saturday 19th March 2022, KO 15:00 | cinch Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts strengthened their grip on third place in the cinch Premiership with a confident victory over Livingston at Tynecastle.
An Beni Baningime goal inside the opening three minutes was followed up midway through the second half with an absolute beauty from Barrie McKay as the Jambos saw off their West Lothian opponents for the fourth time this season to go 14 points clear in 3rd place.
There was one change from the side that progressed to the Scottish Cup semi-finals last weekend as Aaron McEneff was rewarded for a bright showing off the bench with a start in place of Ben Woodburn.
The confidence gleaned from that win was evident from the off as the Jambos roared into an early lead. McKay fed Liam Boyce on the left, he played in Ellis Simms who got to the byline and fired across goal where Baningime was waiting to prod the the loose ball home in a carbon copy of his goal last week.
Boyce and Simms were linking up well and Boyce slipped in another pass in behind for the on-loan Everton man but Max Stryjek produced a strong stop.
The Hearts support thought they'd seen a second when a corner fell to Craig Halkett at the back post but his volley was deflected into the side netting, and from the following corner, Stephen Kingsley nodded wide.
The first half had been one way traffic but there was a blow dealt when Baningime appeared to land awkwardly around halfway and he had to be replaced by Alex Cochrane with Andy Halliday moving into midfield.
The visitors had been very passive in the first half so it was no surprise to see them attack with a bit more ambition and that showed when Alan Forrest's effort from the edge of the box was well saved by Craig Gordon.
However, this did leave Livi more vulnerable to the counter and so it came to bite them when, twelve minutes into the half, Tynecastle rose to acclaim a long awaited moment.
Nathaniel Atkinson attempted to cross the ball in but it rebounded back to the Aussie who elected to chip a lovely ball to the back post where McKay was waiting to arrow an absolutely stunning first time volley that arced into the top corner, to the delight of all, particularly McKay's jubilant teammates.
You sensed that would be that for the three points, although Gordon was called into action late on to produce a big save to deny Andrew Shinnie as he closed the angle and saved with his arm.
As time drew to a close, there were numerous substitutions that took the sting out of the match as Hearts saw out time comfortably to extend their lead in third place to 14 points with seven matches remaining.
Hearts: Gordon, Atkinson (Moore 83), Halkett, Kingsley, Halliday (Sibbick 83), Baningime (Cochrane 36), Haring, McEneff (Ginnelly 70), McKay (Woodburn 82), Boyce, Simms. Subs not used: Stewart, Tait.
Livingston:Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Obileye, Pittman (Shinnie 74), Bailey (Soto 63), Forrest (Chukwuemkea 63), Holt, Nouble, Penrice (Lewis 74), Omeonga (Kelly 63). Subs not used:Konovalov, Longridge, Montano, Boyes.