Hearts ran out comfortable 2-0 winners against Raith Rovers this evening.
Second-half goals from Gary Oliver and Jamie Walker were enough to ensure that the Gorgie boys left Stark’s Park victorious in what has been an encouraging start to pre-season.
The Jambos lined up with a mixture of youth and experience, Blazej Augustyn was handed the captain’s armband while there were starts for 17-year-old Sean McKirdy and 19-year-old Liam Smith.
Hearts set out their passing game nice and early, with Oliver’s ball down the line finding Soufian El Hassnaoui, who turned away from his man before firing over a cross that just evaded Juanma inside the six-yard box.
Height was a big advantage for the Jambos at set-pieces and Sam Nicholson’s eighth minute free-kick found Augustyn on the edge of the six-yard box, but he could only head into the arms of Kevin Cuthbert.
McKirdy never shirked a challenge in the middle of the park and almost found himself opening the scoring after 16 minutes with a floating effort from 25-yards, but it fell the wrong side of Cuthbert’s left-hand post.
All the chances were falling to Hearts, with Gary Oliver rattling the post in 23 minutes. The ball fell into his path inside the box and he produced a wonderful curling effort, only to see it crash off the woodwork.
At the other end Lewis Vaughan’s 36th minute free-kick flashed across the box with no takers and spun inches wide of Neil Alexander’s left-hand post.
50 seconds into the restart the Raith woodwork was hit again. Oliver sent Paterson down the line and his cross was turned onto the crossbar by Kyle Benedictus, who narrowly avoided an own goal.
The Jam Tarts picked up where they left off, working their way up the park to threaten the home goal. Smith touched the ball into the box for El Hassnaoui, whose angled drive was collected by Cuthbert.
Moments later, Nicholson carried the ball forward before dragging a shot wide from the edge of the box.
The deadlock was finally broken after 54 minutes. Oliver drove forward at goal and pulled the trigger at the edge of the box and his shot, deflected off of the lunging Benedictus, spun over Cuthbert and into the back of the net.
Bang on the hour mark, Robbie Neilson made a raft of substitutions, among them were first appearances for Leon Jones and Russell McLean.
With 11 minutes remaining Hearts doubled their lead. McLean’s header landed at the feet of Walker and his looping shot from 18-yards hit the top corner of the net.
It was almost 3-0 with only minutes remaining when Osman Sow powered down the wing and cut inside, but his low drive across the face of goal was agonisingly wide of Cuthbert’s left-hand post.
Another good workout for the boys in maroon, who make it three pre-season wins out of three.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Toshney, Benedictus, Callachan, Craigen, McCord, Wighton, Vaughan, Anderson. Subs: Petrie, Ford, Bates, Trialist, Laidlaw, Megginson, Robertson, McGurn, Matthews.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson (Fox, 60'), Augustyn (Jones, 60'), McGhee (Howlett-Mundle, 60'), Smith, Oliver (Walker, 60'), McKirdy (McLean, 60'), Anderson (Pallardo, 60'), Nicholson (King, 60'), El Hassnaoui (Sow, 60'), Juanma (Reilly, 60'). Subs: Hamilton.
Referee: Crawford Allan
Top man: Sam Nicholson