Hearts earned a comfortable victory in today’s Scottish Championship encounter with Greenock Morton at Cappielow.
A goal in each half from Jamie Walker proved the difference as the win took the Jambos to the top of the league table.
After a minute’s silence in memory of footballing legend Diego Maradona, the game began in stodgy fashion as Hearts struggled to break down Morton’s rigid 5-4-1 formation, which made entertainment a premium.
However, Robbie Neilson's side were patient and gradually made their way into the match. Walker cut in off the left and whipped a dangerous ball in, which just evaded Steven Naismith. At the other end, Sean McGinty curled a shot just wide, but that would be all Morton would offer in the first half.
Walker then found himself with space in the area, but his stinging drive was pushed away by Aidan McAdams, before Naismith tried his luck from distance but his shot sailed over. Hearts were now all over Morton, and had a huge shout for a penalty when McGinty handled in the area, with nothing given.
Craig Wighton was then pulled down on the edge of the area as he got in behind the Morton back five, but from the free kick, the ball was cleared. A minute later, Wighton was tripped outside the area and again Stephen Kingsley’s effort went wide.
Andy Irving then went close from range, as he sold his marker a dummy before letting fly from 25 yards that whistled just over the bar. Andy Halliday was then fouled outside the area, and Walker hit his free kick over the bar.
You sensed the goal was coming for Hearts, and Wighton nearly provided it. Michael Smith pinged a superb pass over the top and Wighton took the ball first time over the shoulder, with McAdams producing a stunning save.
However, the goal finally arrived two minutes later when Hearts harried Morton in their own penalty area, the ball broke to Walker and he volleyed the ball into the ground and over McAdams into the corner. It was nearly a minute before half time when Irving released Smith down the right, he cut back for Olly Lee and his shot was somehow pushed onto the bar by McAdams.
After the break, Hearts made it 2-0 three minutes into the half. Irving sprayed a magnificent cross field pass that took out the Morton defence. Walker’s first touch left his marker for dead, and he broke into the box and finished brilliantly.
Moments later, it was nearly 3. Lovely build up from Smith, Wighton and Lee saw the latter break into the area and fire across goal, only for the ball to be deflected onto the woodwork and away.
On the hour, Lee should have scored, when Halliday overlapped Walker and cut back for the English midfielder but his shot was saved.
The game started to settle now as the result seemed inevitable with Hearts pushing back against any Morton attacks, with two tame efforts from Aidan Nesbitt in the last five minutes all the ‘Ton had to offer, as Hearts went top of the Scottish Championship.
Morton: McAdams, Fjortoft, McLean (Salkeld, 60'), McGinty, Omar, Jacobs, McPake, Strapp, McAlister, Muirhead (Nesbitt, 78'), MacIver (Oliver, 75'). Subs: Colville, Lyon, Orsi, Millar.
Hearts: Gordon, Berra, Smith, Kingsley, Halkett, Irving (Haring, 76'), Halliday, Lee, Walker, Wighton (Roberts, 78'), Naismith. Subs: Stewart, Popescu, Boyce, White, Henderson.