RESILIENCE is a quality that Hearts had displayed on a number of occasions in the 2002-03 SPL season and their ability to bounce back from defeat was again on show at Tynecastle as the Jambos put a disappointment of their CIS League Cup loss to Rangers behind them with an emphatic win which greatly boosted their hopes of European football for the following season.
Hearts were made to wait until the second half to reap the rewards for their domination of the game with Alan Maybury opening the scoring before Mark De Vries and Kevin McKenna ensured that the points would remain in Edinburgh.
The home side were out of the starting blocks at a tremendous pace, forcing Jim Jefferies’ side on to the back foot almost immediately.
Within a minute Austin McCann, deputising for the injured Stephane Mahe, whipped in a teasing cross that Colin Meldrum did well to pluck from the head of Phil Stamp.
Two minutes later, the Hearts fans were again on their feet to applaud their team as Jean-Louis Valois and Stamp played a neat one-two on the right touchline allowing the former Middlesbrough player to cross for De Vries, who was only just beaten to the ball by Greg Shields with the goal gaping.
The visitors’ only real clear-cut opportunity of the match came14 minutes from the interval when Andy McLaren played in Kris Boyd with a clever pass, but with only the goalkeeper to beat the youngster screwed his shot just wide of Tepi Moilanen’s left-hand upright.
Despite their dominance, Hearts went in at the break on level terms but refused to be panicked and deservedly took the lead with just four minutes of the second half played.
Former Tynecastle favourite Stevie Fulton was dispossessed by Valois and he fed the ball to Alan Maybury, who ghosted past two Killie defenders before firing an unstoppable, low 25-yard shot beyond the helpless Meldrum.
It was only his second ever goal in the professional ranks but both have been right out of the top drawer. The sending-off of Greg Shields three minutes later for a second bookable offence virtually kept the points at Tynecastle but, just to make sure, the Jambos added another goal within 60 seconds.
In a moment that Killie ’keeper Meldrum won’t enjoy seeing again, he flapped at a Stamp cross, allowing De Vries to beat him to the ball, steady himself and place a low shot between his legs and into the empty net.
Eleven minutes from time, Hearts completed a fine afternoon’s work when Valois was afforded far too much space down the left flank and he was able to play in Kevin McKenna, who had come on for the tiring De Vries.
The Canadian internationalist coolly beat Meldrum with a shot into the far corner from five yards.