HEARTS continue to lead the way at the top of the Championship after a comprehensive win at Queen of the South.
Goals from Osman Sow, Prince Buaben and Jordan McGhee produced a seventh league win out of eight on a sunny afternoon in Dumfries.
Despite an impressive first-half display by the home team, Hearts were 2-0 ahead at the interval after two goals in a four-minute burst. That put them firmly in the driving seat, and McGhee added a third to round off another convincing win for the league leaders.
This was James Fowler’s first game as Queen of the South’s permanent player-manager. He saw his team start assertively but would have rued striker Gavin Reilly’s wastefulness in the seventh minute. After seizing on a loose pass by Buaben in midfield, Reilly sprinted for goal but his early left-footed attempt rolled wide of target from 20 yards. Moments later, Andy Dowie powered a header off the post from Ian McShane’s corner. Then Iain Russell’s header from Kevin Holt’s curling cross bounced narrowly wide.
Hearts, with full-backs Callum Paterson and Kevin McHattie not risked on Palmerston Park’s astroturf, looked unsettled in defence. They couldn’t find rhythm in midfield either. Sow had two attempts stopped by Queen of the South goalkeeper Zander Clark but the hosts looked comfortable for much of the first half.
Then, seven minutes from the interval, Hearts sprung to life. Sow collected Danny Wilson’s forward pass with his back to goal, spun his man and lashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar and down over the goal line. Referee Brian Colvin awarded the goal despite assistant referee David Dunne failing to do likewise. That prompted strong protests from the home players but the match restarted after a short delay.
Minutes later, a surging run through midfield and prodded finish from 18 yards by Buaben doubled the visitors’ advantage. No-one in blue challenged the Ghanaian as he charged forward in possession and the half-time whistle sounded with Hearts grateful for their two-goal cushion.
The Edinburgh side were denied what looked an obvious penalty early in the second half when Jamie Walker seemed to be impeded going past Holt inside the box. Nonetheless, they put this game to bed on the hour mark. Billy King’s tantalising cross from the left was side-footed home by teenager McGhee just a few yards out.
Greg Kiltie forced a fine save from Neil Alexander in the Hearts goal on 62 minutes after Adam Eckersley hesitated to clear a long ball. Even at that stage, Queen of the South looked a dejected bunch. The game largely petered out towards the end, although Sow and Walker did force saves from Clark in the final seconds. Spanish midfielder Miguel Pallardo also made his Hearts debut as his new colleagues powered to another victory.
Queen of the South (4-4-2): Clark; Kidd, Dowie, Higgins, Holt; Russell, McShane, Fowler, Kiltie; Lyle, Reilly.
57: Kerr for Fowler
63: Dzierzawski for Kiltie
67: Baird for Lyle
Unused subs: Atkinson, Hooper, Slatery, Smith.
Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; McGhee, Ozturk, Wilson, Eckersley; King, Buaben, Gomis, Walker; El Hassnaoui, Sow.
63: Nicholson for El Hassnaoui
79: Pallardo for Buaben
82: Paterson for Ozturk
Unused subs: Hamilton, McHattie, Holt, Carrick.
Referee: Brian Colvin.
Scorers: Hearts - Sow (38), Buaben (42), McGhee (60).