Hearts were defeated 2-0 by Sunderland in a pre-season friendly match at a sun-kissed Tynecastle.
Robbie Neilson made three changes to the side that defeated Cove Rangers in midweek, with Craig Gordon, Stephen Kingsley and Josh Ginnelly being rested and kept fresh for the competitive action to come, with an entire second XI, plus one extra, being named on the bench.
Sunderland were awarded a penalty after 13 minutes. Aiden McGeady played through a pass for Ross Stewart, with the Hearts keeper - also Ross Stewart - making a fine stop to divert the ball away from the striker. However, referee Mike Roncone awarded the spot kick, which McGeady converted.
Hearts responded with a period of sustained pressure, without any clear cut chances. Finlay Pollock and Craig Halkett both had headed attempts that failed to cause any danger. Just prior to the half hour, Michael Smith and Jamie Walker combined down the right, with Walker clipping a ball to the front post that Liam Boyce got a touch too, but it was cleared.
A minute later, Gary Mackay-Steven produced a lovely touch to beat his marker and race towards goal, but again, some desperate Sunderland defending denied him when he was set to pull the trigger. At the other end, McGeady claimed a foul after going down in the area with Smith somewhere near him. Referee Roncone correctly deemed there was no penalty to award, and booked the former Celtic man for simulation.
Walker then inadvertently set up another Sunderland chance with a loose pass setting Aiden O’Brien scampering towards goal, but Stewart made a strong block to deny the striker. Hearts were soon on the attack again and Mackay-Steven nearly converted at the front post but his attempt was blocked.
O’Brien then nearly doubled the lead when a corner fell to him in the area, but his hooked overhead kick crashed off the bar. However, they did double the lead a minute later when O’Brien slipped in McGeady after some slack play from Hearts, and he grabbed his second with a fine finish low into the corner.
Into the second half, and Hearts introduced Aaron McEneff and Euan Henderson, replacing Boyce and Mackay-Steven, and the two combined almost immediately with Henderson being sent free into the area from McEneff’s pass, cutting back to Pollock whose shot was deflected over for a corner.
Hearts then made a raft of substitutions, too many to mention here, and one of them nearly contributed to a goal. Leo Watson whipped in a superb free kick from the right wing after some good skill by Connor Smith, which was headed for a corner. From the corner, Watson’s precise delivery was headed just wide by Peter Haring.
Hearts came even closer with 12 minutes to play when a corner wasn’t cleared properly, but Connor Smith’s left-footed shot cannoned off the post and away, but Sunderland were content to play out time and leave with the victory.
Hearts: Stewart, M. Smith (C. Smith, 56'), Souttar (Popescu, 56'), Haring, Walker (Denholm, 82'), Boyce, Mackay-Steven, Halliday (Watson, 56'), Cochrane (Roberts, 56'), Halkett (McGill, 56'), Pollock (Damour, 56'). Subs: McFarlane, Flatman, Tait.
Sunderland: Patterson, Winchester, Dyche, Neil, Doyle, Flanagan, McGeady, Embleton, O'Brien, Stewart, Gooch. Subs: Grigg, Taylor, Richardson, Evans, Diamond, Younger, Wilding, Burge.