Hearts secured a comprehensive victory over Livingston today at Tynecastle Park.
Goals from Michael Smith, Liam Boyce and Alex Cochrane made it seven league games unbeaten for the Jam Tarts as they continued their tremendous start to the cinch Premiership campaign.
The Jambos returned to a 3-4-3 formation, with Michael Smith on the side at right wing back. John Souttar missed out due to a minor knock, while there was a first start for Cammy Devlin in the heart of midfield.
Barrie McKay, so impressive in Dingwall last weekend, sent James Penrice to the shops with a sensational turn on the byline and pinged a pinpoint cross to the back post for Cochrane, who teed the ball back for Smith to mark his return in style as he smashed the ball into the top corner from just inside the area.
Hearts had their tails up now, and there was almost a first goal for Ben Woodburn. After he was fouled on the left wing, he took a free kick from the corner of the box and almost caught out Max Stryjek but the keeper made a great save on his line.
The second goal was inevitable though, and it arrived soon after. The tremendous Devlin was tripped in the area but poked the ball to Beni Baningime, who was also tripped, leaving referee Gavin Duncan no choice but to point to the spot. Boyce stepped and did what Boyce does, scoring emphatically by sending Stryjek the wrong way.
Hearts were in total control now, and Smith was nearly at it again in first half stoppage time, when the ball sat up for him 25 yards out, and he sent a half-volley screaming towards goal, forcing Stryjek into another good save.
Stryjek was called into action again five minutes into the second half. After Woodburn’s free kick attempt was handled by the wall, there was another free-kick on the edge of the area. Stephen Kingsley looked like he’d made it two goals in two weeks, but Stryjek flew to his right to produce a stunning stop.
It should have been three on the hour. McKay, ever alert, pounced onto a slack pass across defence and raced through on goal, attempting to chip Stryjek with his left foot but the keeper again denied Hearts with a fine stop. However, again, the goal was coming.
McKay made some space inside the area for himself, and smashed a ball across the face of goal for Cochrane to run onto at the back post, tapping into an empty net to grab a deserved goal. It was almost four moments later when Craig Halkett headed over from a Woodburn free kick.
The game wound down after that, with a raft of changes taking the sting out the game for most players other than Devlin who was still chasing down every ball as if his life depended on it, as the referee called time on an impressive display from the Jambos.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Kingsley (Halliday, 71'), Baningime, Woodburn, Boyce (Gnanduillet, 63'), Devlin, Moore, Cochrane, McKay (Mackay-Steven, 77'), Halkett (Haring, 89'). Subs: Stewart, Walker, McEneff.
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Obileye, Fitzwater, Penrice, McMillan, Holt, Williamson (Omeonga, 45'), Lewis (Longridge, 45'), Shinnie, Bailey (Anderson, 66'). Subs: Barden, Montano, Forrest, Kelly.
Referee: Gavin Duncan