Hearts wrapped up the Championship season in style with a 4-0 win over Raith Rovers on Friday night.
Gary Mackay-Steven’s first half strike put the Jambos in the driving seat before Euan Henderson doubled the advantage early in the second half. The hosts were then reduced to ten men, allowing the Champions to assert their dominance with Steven Naismith adding a third before Mackay-Steven grabbed his second of the evening.
Robbie Neilson made one change to the side that defeated Inverness CT as Henderson replaced Armand Gnanduillet who missed out due to injury.
The hosts pressed high up the park during the early stages and looked to be getting the upper hand before the Jambos struck with their first real attack of the game.
The clock showed 11 minutes when Michael Smith’s through ball released Mackay-Steven on the right flank and he made no mistake as he cut inside and curled a shot into the bottom left corner.
Mackay-Steven’s third goal in two games allowed the Jambos to settle into the game and dominate possession. Liam Boyce got on the end of a Shay Logan cross on 21 minutes, peeling off the defender only to see the keeper save his close range headed effort.
Minutes later, Henderson looked set to go clean through on goal only to be taken down 25 yards from goal, with Fernandy Mendy receiving the first yellow card of the game. Andy Halliday’s brilliant free-kick then came crashing off the bar as Hearts came within inches of doubling their advantage.
The half then ended with a flurry of chances at either end. A well struck cross from the right found Brad Spencer just yards out but he smashed the ball high over the bar, much to Craig Gordon’s relief.
Boyce then saw a back-heeled effort stopped by MacDonald before Reghan Tumilty fired inches wide up the other end. The last chance of the half saw Mackay-Steven break into the box but he opted to pull it back for Boyce rather than shoot, resulting in the ball deflecting into path of the keeper.
The first opportunity of the second period fell to the visitors, however, as Boyce’s fine ball into the path of Henderson saw him race in on the left side of goal only to see his low shot saved by MacDonald.
The Champions were then forced into a change with Smith limping off to be replaced by Andy Irving.
Minutes later, Hearts found themselves two goals to the good. The ball was worked from the left flank into Henderson on the left side of the box. He still had plenty to do but managed to pull away from his man before firing a perfectly placed shot into the opposite corner.
The youngster was then at the heart of the action shortly after as he was brought down by Davidson in the box. The referee pointed to the spot before giving a red card to the Rovers defender. Craig Halkett duly stepped up but saw his penalty clip the bar and go over as it remained 2-0 to Robbie Neilson’s men.
Boyce then could have made it 3 on 61 minutes as he pulled clear inside the box but once again MacDonald stood firm.
It was all Hearts at this point as their numerical advantage allowed them to pin the hosts back. Steven Naismith replaced goalscorer Henderson with just over 20 minutes to go and he added Hearts third with one of his first touches.
Boyce, who had seen a header come off the crossbar seconds earlier, nipped in front of Spencer to backheel the ball into the path of the skipper who poked the ball over the line from yards out.
Minutes later It was four for the Jambos. Some fine link-up play between Boyce and Naismith allowed the former to pull the ball back for Mackay-Steven to roll the ball into the empty net from close range.
Robbie then made his final change as Aaron McEneff made way for 16-year-old midfielder Finlay Pollock, who made his senior debut against Inverness last Saturday.
Hearts continued to dominate proceedings and Mackay-Steven nearly got his hat-trick when he met an Irving cross but the keeper was equal to his header.
That was all she wrote as the league champions wrapped up the season with a dominant display in Kirkcaldy.
Raith Rovers: J. MacDonald, Tumilty, K. MacDonald, Davidson, Mendy (Armstrong, 46'), Benedictus, Hendry, Vaughan (Cooney, 59'), Spencer, King, Gullan (Ugwu, 66'). Subs: Thomson, Duku, Abraham, Kennedy.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith (Irving, 55'), Souttar, Haring, Boyce, Logan, Halliday, Mackay-Steven, McEneff (Pollock, 75'), Halkett, Henderson (Naismith, 68'). Subs: Stewart, Popescu, Kastaneer, McGill.
Referee: David Munro