Hearts cruised to a 2-0 win over Alloa Athletic at Tynecastle – a win that maintains the Jambos' unbeaten start to the Championship season.
First-half goals from James Keatings and Callum Paterson were enough to secure three points, though a dominating display could’ve seen the men in maroon bag another couple of goals.
Fresh from an enforced week’s break, after the postponement at Cowdenbeath, the Jambos lined up with one change from the side that beat Queen of the South at Tynecastle – Scott Robinson replaced the suspended Morgaro Gomis.
Hearts dominated the opening proceedings, with Keatings just failing to get on the end of Paterson’s swinging cross after six minutes.
The opening goal came in the 16th minute and it was courtesy of that man Keatings. Miguel Pallardo did well to get the ball out from underneath his feet and thread through ‘Keatsy’ at the edge of the box, and after letting the ball come across him, he slotted low beyond Craig McDowall and into the back of the net.
Home pressure continued as the Jambos refused to rest on their laurels. Prince Buaben was proving to be a handful for the visitors and his 25th-minute long-range drive was blocked well by McDowall.
Four minutes later it was 2-0. Paterson and Jamie Walker combined well at the edge of the box, with the latter reaching the bye-line to cross for the former, whose dink went through the legs of McDowall to double the Jambos’ lead.
Alloa almost got a foot back into the game before half-time. A corner from the right wasn’t properly cleared and Stephen Simmons’ snapshot cannoned off a maroon shirt and up onto Neil Alexander’s left-hand post before being hacked away.
Right on the half-time mark the crowd erupted into a chorus of “shoot, shoot” as Hearts were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out, and Alim Ozturk stepped up to take it. His shot was powerful and cleared the wall, but dipped just over the crossbar.
Hearts could’ve had goals No. 3 nd 4 just minutes into the restart.
First, Walker skinned his man and cut into the box before rattling a shot inches wide of McDowall’s left-hand post, then Keatings’ cross to the back door found Billy King unmarked but his first-time effort somehow failed to hit the target.
Pallardo – outstanding in the match – had goalkeeper McDowall beaten all ends up with his 30-yard swerving shot, but the ball bounced off the underside of the crossbar and away from danger.
Substitute Sam Nicholson made an instant impact after coming on, holding off some robust challenges to turn and hit a snapshot from 25 yards, but the ball took a deflection wide of the scrambling McDowall’s goal.
Fellow-sub Jason Holt made his presence felt, continually pulling passes in the centre of the park. In the 80th minute he received the ball from Ozturk before driving forward and flashing an effort wide of the target.
Holty then passed up a golden opportunity to make it 3-0 with only minutes remaining. Paterson’s deep cross found him inside the box, and though he tried to twist and turn away from the Wasps shirts in front of him, his eventual shot was blocked in front of the goal and hacked away.
In the end a comfortable victory for Robbie Neilson’s lads, who remain nine points clear at the top of the Championship with a game in-hand.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Wilson, Ozturk, Walker (Nicholson, 65'), Robinson (Holt, 65'), King, Pallardo, Buaben, Keatings (Oliver, 83'), Eckersley. Subs: Hamilton, McKay, Buchanan, McGhee.
Alloa: McDowall, Doyle, Gordon, Benedictus, Meggatt (Cawley, 53'), Docherty, McCord, Simmons, Holmes, Spence (Ferns, 87'), L. Buchanan. Subs: Couser, Hetherington, Marr, Tiffoney.
Referee: Crawford Allan.
Top man: Miguel Pallardo.