Ross County 1-2 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts were heroes in the highlands on Saturday when they beat Ross County 2-1 at the Global Energy Stadium.
The Gorgie boys took a first half lead through Callum Paterson, and even though they were pegged back by Yann Songo'o's header, Scott Robinson clinched all three points late on.
Gary Locke made two changes from the side that drew 3-3 at McDiarmid Park seven days ago. The suspended Ryan Stevenson was replaced by Sam Nicholson, while Robinson came in to replace Callum Tapping.
Hearts came flying out of the traps and could've had two goals in the opening minute and a half. First, Nicholson's long range effort dipped just over the bar, then David Smith's cross found Paterson inside the six yard box but he couldn't steer his effort on target.
The Jambos continued their relentless pressure and almost took the lead after ten minutes. A deep Kevin McHattie cross found Smith at the opposite side of the box, but his ball back across the six yard box was headed over by the unmarked Dale Carrick.
The woodwork was next to come to Ross County's rescue when Smith's 25 yard shot bounced back off Michael Fraser's right-hand post, as Hearts looked like a team on a mission.
With 22 minutes gone, another chance presented itself to the Gorgie Boys. Smith slipped in Carrick who blasted his effort from the edge of the six yard box, but Fraser was on hand to tip the ball over the bar.
The home side proved how dangerous they could be on the half hour mark when Graham Carey's free kick was nodded goalwards by Jordan Slew, but Jamie MacDonald was down quick enough to cover as the ball flew past his right-hand post.
Not to be outdone, Hearts went up the other end and almost broke the deadlock. Carrick received the ball 30 yards out and ran towards goal before curling a shot from the edge of the box, unfortunately for him the ball went just wide of the target.
Finally, with 36 minutes on the clock, the Jambos got the breakthrough they so richly deserved. Smith's corner from the left flew over the head of the incoming Brad McKay, but Paterson was on hand to tap in to the back of the net from close range.
That lead didn't last long however, as County got back on level terms nine minutes later. Richard Brittain planted a free kick onto the penalty spot and Songo'o was first to meet the ball and head home.
The second half strated with a bang, courtesy of County's Songo'o. He unleashed a right-foot rocket from all of 35 yards out, but McDonald made a smart save to push the ball around the post.
Play continued with Ross County coming more into the match, while Hearts relied on dogged defending and clever closing down from midfield to keep the hosts at bay for a spell.
Possibly the best chance of the match fell to Sam Nicholson in the 71st minute. Smith's pinpoint cross was met in the six yard box by the flying winger, but he lifted his header over the crossbar from only four yards.
Hearts grew in confidence as the half progressed and were rewarded with ten minutes remaining. Smith's looping ball in from the right ended up at the feet of Robinson and he lashed the ball high into the net from eight yards to give Hearts the lead.
Ross County blew a great chance to get back on level terms a few minutes later. Jordan Slew broke free of the defence to latch on to a free ball, but he dragged his shot wide of the target.
Anything the home side did, the Jambos could do better, however. McHattie won the ball inside his own half before going on a 50 yard mazy run into the opposition's box, only to be denied by a save from Fraser.
A tense final few minutes were played out as Hearts ran out victorious in a match Gary Locke's boys thoroughly deserved to win. The Jambos move into positive points with two crucial matches on the horizon.
Ross County: Fraser; Gordon (De Leeuw, 88'), Kiss, Brittain, Tidser (Cooper, 88'); McLean, Carey, Slew, Oikonomou; Arquin, Songo'o. Subs: Brown, Boyd, Micic, Quinn, Glen.
Hearts: MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McHattie; Smith, Hamill, Robinson, Nicholson (Tapping, 82'); Carrick (B. King, 73'), Paterson. Subs: Ridgers, McGhee, Beith, Oliver.
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Top man: David Smith