Hearts’ long unbeaten Championship run came to an end at Tynecastle this afternoon, with Falkirk winning 3-2.
Hearts took an early lead through Genero Zeefuik but were then pegged back by John Baird and Rory Loy goals. James Keatings got the Jambos back on level terms, but Craig Sibbald won the match for the Bairns with ten minutes remaining.
Robbie Neilson made only one change from the side that started last week’s abandoned match at Ibrox, in came Osman Sow – his first appearance since October – for the suspended Alim Ozturk.
Sow was instrumental in giving Hearts a second-minute lead. Zeefuik robbed his man before slipping the big Swede in. He carried the ball forward and cut it back for Zeefuik to slam home from close range.
Despite a strong start by the Jambos, it was Falkirk who nearly got back on level terms. Craig Sibbald’s 12th-minute free-kick found Peter Grant at the back door but he blasted over the bar from six-yards.
Chances at either end immediately followed. Sow released Sam Nicholson through the middle but he screwed his effort wide from inside the box, then Sibbald drilled wide after picking up a sliced Neil Alexander clearance.
The visitors passed up two good chances to get back into the game. Alexander blocked well from Luke Leahy, before Mark Kerr shanked an effort wide from15-yards.
Though Falkirk looked dangerous going forward, Sow was proving a handful for the Bairns’ defence. In the 21st minute he collected a loose ball 20-yards out and fired a powerful shot inches wide of Jamie MacDonald’s right-hand post.
Just after the half-hour mark Falkirk were awarded a penalty. Jordan McGhee lunged into Loy on 18-yards, and Baird rattled into the corner from the spot.
Hearts looked out of sorts by this point, with Falkirk passing their way through the middle. Blair Alston tried his luck with a snapshot from 30-yards but Alexander got down well and held.
Seven minutes into the restart, Falkirk took the lead. Loy spun McGhee at the edge of the box before a curling a wonderful shot in off the post.
The men in maroon had a huge penalty shout turned down by referee Don Robertson after Grant barged into the back of Sow, much to the disgust of the Tynecastle support.
Nicholson was denied a goal by a MacDonald wonder save on the hour mark. Morgaro Gomis’ deep cross was headed goalwards by the Hearts winger, but MacDonald instinctively stuck out an arm to keep the ball out.
Hearts began to look more confident, particularly when attacking down the flanks. Danny Wilson met Nicholson’s corner in the 65th minute, but couldn’t steer his header on target.
Falkirk again had MacDonald to thank for maintaining their lead. Substitute James Keatings was slipped through but the Falkirk ‘keeper made the save with his legs before the danger was cleared.
Moments later, Keatings atoned for his miss. The ball dropped to him inside the box and this time the striker made no mistake, burying the ball into the back of the net.
The joy was short lived however, as slack defending cost Hearts dear. Gomis was dispossessed on the edge of the box by Sibbald, who evaded challenges to slot the ball into the bottom corner.
A bitterly disappointing result, though eyes must remain on the prize as Hearts still atop of the Championship with a favourable cushion between them and their nearest rivals.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Wilson, Gomis (Holt, 80'), Walker, Nicholson, Buaben, Sow (Keatings, 64'), Zeefuik, McGhee, Eckersley. Subs: Hamilton, Pallardo, Oliver, Carrick, McKay.
Falkirk: MacDonald, Duffie, Vaulks, Taiwo (D. Smith, 80'), Alston, Sibbald, Kerr, Grant, Leahy, Loy (Biabi, 89'), Baird (Dick, 85'). Subs: Bowman, Maybury, Cooper, Morgan.
Referee: Don Robertson
Top man: Jamie Walker