PARTICK THISTLE fashioned their first win at Tynecastle in 18 years to leave Hearts 19 points adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership.
Lyle Taylor’s first goal since arriving at Firhill on loan from Sheffield United preceded a second from Aaron Taylor-Sinclair shortly before half-time.
Hearts were again decimated by injuries and suspensions and named only four outfield substitutes. They were dominated for much of the game by a well-organised Thistle side which passed the ball crisply and kept possession well in midfield. The recruitment of Taylor gives them a useful and deadly focal point in attack, to which Hearts had no equivalent.
Captain Danny Wilson missed this game through illness and Jamie Hamill was suspended. Options for Hearts manager Gary Locke were therefore limited but the hosts tested the visiting goalkeeper Scott Fox after eight minutes. Kevin McHattie’s corner was glanced goalwards by Callum Paterson and palmed down by Fox, who gathered the ball at the second attempt.
Jamie MacDonald was then in action at the opposite end to hold Steven Lawless’ volley. That was the first shot of a strong opening period for Partick Thistle, who were pursuing only their second win in 16 games. It was no surprise when they opened the scoring on 13 minutes. Gabriel Piccolo’s long ball was glanced on by Kallum Higginbotham and Taylor held off Dylan McGowan’s challenge to score his first goal for his new club from ten yards.
Thistle’s ball retention ensured they continued as the team in command. Hearts conceded possession to cheaply with too many high balls forward, despite Locke demanding more passes on the ground from his technical area.
Brad McKay glanced a McHattie free-kick over the crossbar before Partick doubled their advantage. The impressive Taylor-Sinclair rose unchallenged to power Higginbotham’s corner beyond MacDonald and accord his team a comfortable two-goal cushion heading into the interval. Hearts’ marking was non-existent and they paid the price.
Lyle stung MacDonald’s palms early in the second half from an acute angle before Ryan Stevenson headed David Smith’s left-sided cross narrowly over the Partick crossbar. Hearts’ cause was not being helped by referee Iain Brines, who let several illegal challenges on those in maroon go unpunished. The visitors were using all their experience to protect their lead.
Only the crossbar prevented them conceding on the hour mark as Callum Tapping dispatched a left-footed shot from more than 20 yards out. The ball deflected off Piccolo and looped up before bouncing off the goal frame with Fox beaten.
Locke introduced attack-minded substitutes Billy King, Dale Carrick and Sam Nicholson in an effort to bring Hearts back into this match. They ventured further forward thereafter and managed a few efforts at goal which landed off target. However, Thistle never truly looked like losing their two-goal lead.
They were reduced to ten men in the closing stages as Stuart Bannigan was dismissed for two cautions inside three minutes - both for late tackles. That did not stop the vociferous band of around 1500 away fans celebrating a first victory in Gorgie since March 1996.
Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; McGhee, McKay, McGowan, McHattie; Smith (B King 64), Tapping, Robinson, Walker (Nicholson 74); Paterson (Carrick 64), Stevenson. Subs: Hamilton, A King, Nicholson.
Partick (4-2-3-1): Fox; O’Donnell, Piccolo, Balatoni, Sinclair; Craigen, Muirhead; Lawless (Baird 84), Craigen, Higginbotham (Elliott 64); Taylor (Doolan 76). Subs: Gallacher, Forbes, McMillan, Wilson.
Referee: Iain Brines.