Match Reports

Match Report: Hearts 5-3 Ayr United

26th December 2020

Hearts went goal crazy again at Tynecastle after defeating Ayr United 5-3 this afternoon.

Despite Stephen Kingsley’s early opener, the Honestmen took the lead through Cammy Smith and Luke McCowan goals. This only seemed to provoke the Jambos, who scored three times in six-minutes thanks to Olly Lee and Craig Wighton’s brace, with Liam Boyce rounding off proceedings.

Robbie Neilson made three changes from the side that took Celtic all the way in last week’s Scottish Cup Final. Olly Lee, Jordan Roberts and Elliott Frear were handed starts while Jamie Walker and Steven Naismith moved to the bench with Aidy White missing out altogether.

Hearts started the stronger, with Stephen Kingsley floating an early ball to the back post but the cross hit off Frear, whose view was blocked by an Ayr defender, and flew wide.

Moments later Andy Halliday sent an inviting cross into the six-yard box but it was an inch too high for the unmarked Liam Boyce to connect.

The visitors threatened seven-minutes in, working their way from the right into Andy Murdoch inside the Hearts box, who was able to turn and shoot but a deflection took the ball narrowly over the target.

With ten minutes on the clock it was 1-0 to the Jambos. An advancing Boyce was scythed down presenting Kingsely with a set piece opportunity 25-yards out. The full back stepped up and struck a left-footed effort low, past the wall and although Ayr goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo got down to it, he allowed the ball to squirm underneath him and into the back of the net.

The woodwork denied Hearts a second seven minutes later. Michael Smith was afforded time and space to carry the ball forward and from 25-yards out struck a thunderbolt that flew past Sinisalo but came crashing back off his left-hand post.

At the other end, Joe Chalmers tried his luck with a long-range effort of his own but Craig Gordon was quick across his line to make a comfortable save.

The Jambos continued to pile on the pressure in search of a second. Roberts did well to skip away from his man on the right before swinging a cross into the Ayr box which Halliday headed into the air, allowing Christophe Berra to ghost in and nod on target but he couldn’t direct the ball away from the keeper.

Andy Irving would be next to hit the target after some good work from Kingsley to get to the ball first and move it inside for the 20-year-old, but his long-range drive was held by Sinisalo.

Ayr had a chance late in the half when they picked up a loose clearance through Luke McCowan, who drove into the box before seeing his right-foot shot deflected into the side netting by Kingsley.

The goalscorer was quick to test Sinisalo again within a minute of the restart. He broke forward from the left before pulling the trigger from distance only to see the keeper get down to his right to smother the ball.

Some tricky by Frear on the left saw the winger find Lee with a low cross into the box and Sam Roscoe deflected the midfielder’s first-time shot narrowly behind. From the resultant corner, Boyce connected but flashed a header straight across the face of the goal.

A flurry of Hearts corners culminated in Halliday connecting at the back post with Irving’s free kick but he could only head wide.

Ayr equalised on 57 minutes. A ball into the box was missed by Michael Moffat but fell into the path of Cammy Smith, who hooked a first-time shot beyond Gordon.

Three minutes later the visitors took the lead. Smith’s ball to the back door was picked up by the unmarked McCowan, who took a touch before slamming an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net.

Hearts restored parity in 68th minute. Berra advanced forward and played a one-two with Kingsley before cutting back to substitute Wighton who sidefooted past Sinisalo to make it 2-2.

The goalfest continued when the men in maroon got their noses back in front three minutes later. Kingsley got down the left to swing a ball into the back door for Boyce to touch back and Lee slid in to divert the ball into the net.

Incredibly, it was 4-2 on 74 minutes. Irving poked the ball forward to Wighton, who showed great strength to hold off his man before driving it low, from 20-yards out, past the despairing hand of Sinisalo and into the bottom corner.

The goals just kept on coming, with the Jambos grabbing a fifth with nine minutes remaining. Wighton slipped in Boyce, who took a touch into the box and then arrowed a low shot into the opposite corner.

A late Halliday free kick was blasted over the bar while Lee’s swerving shot was palmed around the post by the keeper, before Ayr United capatalised on some slack defending to pull one back through Walsh in the final seconds of the game.

The win maintains Hearts' three point lead at the top of the Championship, with a game in hand.

Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Berra, Lee, Boyce, Roberts (Naismith, 58’), Halliday, Irving, Kingsley (Haring, 78’), Frear (Wighton, 63’), Halkett. Subs: Stewart, Walker, Popescu, Henderson.

Ayr United: Sinisalo, Reading, Muirhead, Roscoe, Murdoch, Moffat, Miller, McCowan, Smith, Chalmers, Baird. Subs: Hare-Reid, Houston, Anderson, Walsh, Zanatta, McKenzie, Kerr.