Hearts continued their unbeaten Tynecastle run with a 2-0 win over Aberdeen this afternoon.
Two quick-fire first-half goals from Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were enough to hand the Jambos all three points, and make it 14 games without defeat since returning to Gorgie in the process.
Craig Levein made three changes to the side that drew at Dundee last Sunday. David Milinkovic, Connor Randall and Michael Smith were handed starts ahead of Ross Callachan and Danny Amankwaa, while Joaquim Adao missed out through injury.
Hearts were nearly gifted the opener after three minutes. Don Cowie’s through ball was misjudged by Andy Considine, who let Randall sneak round the back of him and forced Joe Lewis off his line to clear, but it was a poor one and Milinkovic collected the ball to play a one-two with Randall, teeing up Kyle Lafferty at the edge of the box but the Northern Irishman curled his first-time effort over the bar.
The Jambos had the woodwork to thank for keeping the scores level five minutes later. Naismith was judged to have went in high on Graeme Shinnie, and Niall McGinn’s free-kick was met by the head of Considine, only for the defender’s glancing effort to crash off Jon McLaughlin’s left-hand post.
Shay Logan tried his luck with a long-distance effort in the 12th minute after skipping away from Milinkovic, but it was straight at McLaughlin who held easily.
The breakthrough came in the 18th minute and it was for the boys in maroon. Milinkovic’s sublime through ball found the run of Naismith, who weaved away from two Dons defenders before slamming past Lewis from eight yards.
Two minutes later it was 2-0. Scott McKenna’s wayward pass was picked up by Lafferty, and his shot from outside the box was deflected by Anthony O’Connor into the path of Milinkovic, who made no mistake in guiding the ball around Lewis and into the back of the net.
Christophe Berra forced Lewis into a save just after the half hour mark. Naismith swung a free-kick to the edge of the box for the skipper to loop a powerful header on target, and the Dons ‘keeper had to scramble back to pluck the ball out of the air just when it looked like it might creep in under the bar.
Berra went on a lung-bursting run down the left channel seven minutes into the restart before pulling the trigger from outside the box, but he could only lift his effort over the crossbar.
Lewis was at his best to deny Lafferty just before the hour mark. Milinkovic’s lovely turn saw him prod the ball through to the big striker and his rocket shot was tipped over the bar by Lewis.
Substitute Gary Mackay-Steven was able to run through the midfield before drilling low from the edge of the box, but his shot was weak and McLaughlin gathered comfortably.
Mackay-Steven went on the attack again after 72 minutes, receiving a cross-field pass from Shinnie, but bearing down on goal he could only drag his shot wide of the target.
With ten minutes remaining Lewis was called into action again. John Souttar’s defence-splitting pass saw Lafferty spring the offside trap to latch onto the ball and strike low, but the Dons ‘keeper made a smart block.
Moments later, the woodwork came to Hearts’ rescue again. Logan’s cross was knocked down by Considine into the path of substitute Adam Rooney inside the six-yard box and his first-time flick hit the post on its way out of the park.
Aberdeen had the lion’s share of possession in the closing stages but the Hearts defence stood firm to claim an impressive three points.
Hearts: McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Berra, Lafferty, Milnikovic (Amankwaa, 70'), Naismith, Cowie (Cochrane, 88'), Randall, Godinho. Subs: Hamilton, Callachan, Henderson, McDonald, C.Hamilton.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, Considine, O'Connor, McLean, Stewart (Arnason, 46'), McGinn (Mackay-Steven, 61'), McKenna, Christie (Rooney, 70'), May. Subs: Woodman, Reynolds, Wright, Ball.
Referee: John Beaton