Hearts opened up their Championship campaign with a commanding 6-2 win over Dundee.
Michael Smith gave the Jambos an early lead before Josh Ginnelly doubled the lead. Charlie Adam pulled one back but Liam Boyce slotted a penalty and Stephen Kingsley arrowed a free kick into the top corner to make it 4-1 before half time, with Danny Mullen grabbing another consolation goal. Kingsley put the icing on the cake with another impressive strike late on and Andy Halliday smashed a sixth in the last minute, which was no less than the men in maroon deserved.
Robbie Neilson fielded nearly an entirely different XI from the side that beat Raith Rovers in midweek, with Smith and Boyce returning from international duty to start.
The Jambos started like a team possessed and threatened less than two minutes in. Andy Irving advanced deep into the Dundee half before clipping the ball into the box for Josh Ginnelly, who dragged a first-time shot wide.
Two minutes later the deadlock was broken. Olly Lee cut inside from the right before weighting a pass into the box for Smith, whose touch took him away from his man and the Northern Ireland international buried it beyond Jack Hamilton.
Adam gave a timely reminder of how dangerous he could be on the quarter hour mark, turning 20-yards out before curling on target but Craig Gordon leapt to his right to push the ball away.
At the other end Hamilton miskicked a clearance straight to Walker, who moved the ball on to Boyce at the edge of the box. He bore down on goal before seeing his snapshot beaten away by the Dundee keeper.
The men in maroon’s intensity paid off again on 25 minutes. Walker’s corner was cleared only as far as Ginnelly who, from 25-yards out, created space for himself before drilling low into Hamilton’s bottom right corner.
The visitors responded immediately. Adam was allowed to run across the face of the box before smacking a left-foot shot into the net, though it was helped by a slight deflection off of Mihai Popescu.
A lovely passing move around the Dundee box deserved a better outcome as the game approached the half hour mark. Walker’s shot from 18-yards was blocked but Lee quickly moved it inside to Roberts, who played a one-touch pass to Boyce but his shot was deflected wide.
Hearts restored a two-goal cushion with 12 minutes of the half remaining. Lee’s pass towards the box was brilliantly dummied by Roberts into the path of Boyce and his shot was stopped by the outstretched arm of Jordan Marshall, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Boyce stepped up and calmly sent Hamilton the wrong way to make it 3-1.
A commanding performance was being justly rewarded when the Jambos scored a fourth in first-half stoppage time. Lee was fouled 25-yards out and Kingsley stepped up to swing an inch-perfect free kick straight into Hamilton’s top left corner.
Adam tried to outdo Kingsley’s effort from virtually the same position five minutes into the restart, and although he managed to beat the wall he could only fire his set piece wide of the target.
The game was then end to end. Boyce tore down the left and found Walker inside but he couldn’t steer his shot goalward, then substitute Jonathan Afolabi sent the Hearts defence flying with a quick stop before watching his low drive beaten away by Gordon’s legs.
Ginnelly was giving the opposition a torrid time and on 55 minutes Roberts picked him out with a cross from the left, but the winger’s volley lacked power and Hamilton gathered.
Gordon showed everyone just how much class he has when McGowan’s long-range shot took a deflection which wrongfooted the Jambos’ No.1, but he still managed to realign himself to pounce and push the ball away.
Despite Hearts’ dominance, Dundee pulled another goal back in the 68th minute. Alofabi’s shot was blocked into the path of Mullen, who stabbed beyond Gordon.
A brace of headers nearly saw Hearts grab more goals. Walker’s glanced effort was tipped over the bar by Hamilton, then Roberts connected from a corner to bullet over the bar.
With six minutes remaining it was 5-2. Smith’s ball into the box was taken under control by Roberts, who teed up Kingsley to swerve an unstoppable effort with the outside of his left foot into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Jam Tarts weren’t finished there, however. With 89 minutes on the clock Walker burst forward deep into Dundee territory before finding substitute Halliday inside the box, and from an angle he fired across the face of Hamilton’s goal and into the opposite corner.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Walker, Lee, Boyce (Wighton, 75’), Roberts, Irving (Haring, 70’), Kingsley, Halkett, Popescu, Ginnelly (Halliday, 73’). Subs: Stewart, White, Naismith, Frear.
Dundee: Hamilton, Kerr, McGhee, Forster (Afolabi, 46’), Dorrans, McGowan, Ashcroft, Robertson (Anderson, 78’), Sow (Mullen, 51’), Marshall, Adam. Subs: Ferrie, Byrne, McDaid, Elliott.