CILLIAN SHERIDAN’S clinical hat-trick helped Kilmarnock continue their impeccable recent record at Tynecastle as the Ayrshire club recorded a fourth successive win away at Hearts. The tall Irishman scored with a header and two left-footed efforts on a day when his instinctive finishing proved to be a class above anyone else on the pitch.
Hearts - Zaliukas 89
Kilmarnock - Sheridan 32, 50, 62
The result sees Kilmarnock remain in touch near the top of the Scottish Premier League but Hearts will be asking questions about how easily their defence, with fit-again Andy Webster left on the substitutes’ bench, was opened up. Sheridan’s second goal ought to have been disallowed for offside, however there was no question that his potency ultimately made the difference.
After an encouraging start by the home side, Arvydas Novikovas ought to have done better when shooting high from Ryan McGowan’s left-sided cutback. The Lithuanian then crossed beautifully for Callum Paterson, who had the ball prodded off his toe by Michael Nelson’s expertly timed intervening tackle just six yards from goal.
Kilmarnock exploited a brief extra man advantage on 32 minutes when, with McGowan off having treatment on his eye, the visitors fashioned an attack down the right-back’s flank and were rewarded with the opening goal. James Dayton was allowed considerable time and space to cross for the unmarked Sheridan to glance the ball out of Jamie MacDonald’s reach and into the net.
Hearts looked frustrated in their play towards half-time. There were chances at both ends a minute before the interval, with Andy Driver crossing for Paterson to send a looping header over the Kilmarnock crossbar before Sheridan’s low delivery eluded Gary Harkins inside the six-yard box.
Five minutes into the second period, Sheridan doubled the advantage in controversial circumstances. He started from an offside position on the right flank as Manuel Pascali lofted a pass over the home defence. The Irishman galloped forward with the assistant referee’s flag staying down and calmly rolled the ball beneath the advancing MacDonald.
The afternoon worsened for Hearts on 62 minutes when Sheridan completed his hat-trick. Danny Racchi’s swirling free-kick from the left flank was spilled by MacDonald into the striker’s path. He wasn’t going to miss from five yards, and with that the final result of this encounter was put well beyond doubt.
Marius Zaliukas headed home Danny Grainger’s corner with only seconds of normal time remaining for his third goal in two games. However, it was simply too little too late. Despite dominating much of the afternoon’s possession, Hearts were left to digest a comprehensive defeat.
HEARTS:(4-2-3-1): MacDonald; R McGowan, Barr, Zaliukas, Grainger; Stevenson, Taouil; Driver (Carrick 74), Robinson (Sutton 57), Novikovas; Paterson. Subs: Enckelman, Webster, G Smith, D McGowan, McHattie.
KILMARNOCK: (4-4-1-1): Letheren; Fowler, O’Leary, Nelson, McKeown; Racchi, Kelly (Johnson 87), Pascali (Winchester 87), Dayton (Johnston 76); Harkins; Sheridan. Subs: Jaakkola, Boulding, McKenzie, Pursehouse.
Referee: Bobby Madden.