Hearts hit Dundee United for five in an emphatic win at Tynecastle Park this afternoon to move second in the cinch Premiership.
18,000 fans were treated to seven goals as the rampant Jambos emerged 5-2 victors thanks to Ben Woodburn’s double and goals from Alex Cochrane, Stephen Kingsley and Aaron McEneff.
Robbie Neilson made three changes from the side that suffered defeat last week in Aberdeen. Taylor Moore came in for the injured Michael Smith, Barrie McKay replaced Gary Mackay-Steven while Woodburn was given the nod ahead of Armand Gnanduillet.
A cagey opening period saw no real goalmouth action until ten minutes in, when Declan Glass’ deflected effort forced a fine save from Craig Gordon, who tipped it around the post.
Hearts instantly broke up the other end with Woodburn’s shot from inside the box pushed away by Benjamin Siegrist.
It was Woodburn who would break the deadlock just after the 20-minute mark. Played into the right-hand side of the box, he drilled a low shot on target that squirmed under Siegrist and into the back of net for his first goal in maroon.
Four minutes later it was 2-0. Josh Ginnelly’s ball across the box found Cochrane, who rifled home an unstoppable volley into the far corner.
Gordon came to the rescue soon after. Nicky Clark got on the end of Charlie Mulgrew’s cross to send the ball goalward, but Scotland’s No.1 tipped it over the bar in stunning fashion.
The visitors would pull one back on 34 minutes. Ryan Edwards was afforded time to carry the ball forward before trying an unlikely 35-yarder, only for his shot to take a deflection off the head of Kingsley which sent the ball into Gordon’s bottom left corner.
Siegrist would make a brace of fine saves, from McKay and Ginnelly, before the first half was out, and he would repeat the feat of denying Ginnelly minutes into the restart.
It took the Jambos only five minutes to restore a two-goal cushion. Cochrane’s corner was headed back across goal by Craig Halkett, with Moore getting a crucial touch to divert it into the path of Woodburn, and the on-loan Liverpool man expertly guided the ball into the top corner.
To their credit, United never looked like giving up and they forced Gordon into another save, this time from Ilmari Niskanen.
And their persistence paid off when the unmarked Clark headed home to reduce the deficit once again.
At this point, the men in maroon went into top gear. Ginnelly cut into the middle and unleashed a shot that Siegrist was at full stretch to tip onto the post.
With 14 minutes remaining, Hearts extended their lead. Cochrane floated a free kick into the back post for Kingsley to bullet a header into the back of the net.
The icing on the cake arrived in the 86th minute when Mackay-Steven won possession and threaded through McEneff, who dinked the ball over the onrushing Siegrist to make it 5-2.
Hearts: Gordon, Kingsley, Souttar, Baningime, Woodburn (McEneff, 82’), Devlin, Moore, Cochrane, McKay (Mackay-Steven, 67’), Halkett, Ginnelly (Gnanduillet, 79’). Subs: Stewart, Haring, Walker, Logan.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Mulgrew (Smith, 46’), Niskanen, Pawlett, Clark, Edwards, Glass (Biamou, 62’), Freeman, Harkes, McMann, Fuchs. Subs: Newman, Hoti, Butcher, Mochrie, Appere.
Referee: John Beaton