Hearts eased to a 2-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Tuesday night.
Goals in either half from Jamie Walker and Abiola Dauda gave the Jambos a deserved victory under the Tynecastle floodlights.
Robbie Neilson made only one change from the side that defeated Kilmarnock at the weekend, Liam Smith replaced the injured Callum Paterson to make his full league debut.
An uneventful opening quarter saw little action in either final third. Iain Vigurs’ cross from the left found Jordan Roberts inside the box, but his header sailed straight into the arms of Neil Alexander, in what was the first chance of the game.
Hearts went in search of some goalmouth action and found it in the 18th minute. Alim Ozturk’s long ball forward was flicked into the path of Sam Nicholson, who threaded through Prince Buaben, but his cross into the box was deflected into the path of ICT ‘keeper Owain Fon-Williams.
Starting debutant Smith impressed at right back, and very nearly opened the scoring after half an hour. He got on the end of Igor Rossi’s cross-field pass to dart forward and play a one-two with Gavin Reilly, before curling an effort from 20-yards which landed inches over the crossbar.
The Jambos finally made their possession count, making the breakthrough after 34 minutes. Arnaud Djoum’s raking ball forward into the edge of the box saw Walker ghost between two white shirts to take it down, then after a few steps across the face of the box poked beyond Fon-Williams and into the back of the net.
Hearts were now playing with their tails up and nearly added a second. Reilly showed tremendous skill to skin two ICT players and hit the byline before pulling back for the onrushing Rossi to hit first time, and his low effort whizzed just past Fon-Williams’ right-hand post.
The men in maroon started the second half with a bang. Dauda tore forward and showed great pace to burst away from his man and into the box, but his low drive was blocked by the legs of Fon-Williams.
With 52 minutes gone it was 2-0. Greg Tansey’s passback from just inside his own half was far too short and allowed Dauda to pounce upon it, running in on goal and rounding the ‘keeper before slotting into an empty net.
Hearts looked comfortable by this point, keeping possession and threatening in the final third. Smith’s teasing ball to the back door just evaded the outstretched leg of Walker, as the Jambos looked for a third.
It should’ve been 3-0 with 20 minutes remaining. Buaben moved the ball quickly to Nicholson, who broke forward into the ICT box before passing sideways to the unmarked Dauda, but he failed to connect properly and drilled low into the arms of Fon-Williams.
Alexander didn’t have much to do but when he was called into action, he made it count. Miles Storey stepped-over at the edge of the Hearts box before firing low on target, but the Jambos ‘keeper got down to make the block and Rossi cleared the danger.
Alexander was on hand again to make a smart block at his near post following Vigurs’ turn and hit from close range, as Neilson’s men saw out a comfortable victory that cuts the gap on second-placed Aberdeen to six points.
Hearts: Alexander, L. Smith, Ozturk, Souttar, Rossi (McGhee, 80'), Nicholson, Buaben, Djoum, Walker (Zanatta, 66'), Reilly, Dauda (Cowie, 78'). Subs: Hamilton, Augustyn, Pallardo, Juanma.
Inverness CT: Fon-Williams, Tremarco, Warren, Roberts (R. Williams, 70'), Devine, Tansey, Horner (Hughes, 82'), D.Williams, Polworth, Vigurs, Storey. Subs: Esson, Brown, MacLennan.
Referee: Alan Muir
Top Man: Liam Smith