HEARTS answered their critics in timely fashion and ended a three-game goalless sequence with a 2-0 win over Aberdeen.
Scorers: Stevenson 31 pen, Paterson 54
Ryan Stevenson’s penalty and Callum Paterson’s driven finish brought the Tynecastle manager John McGlynn three vital points against one of the Scottish Premier League’s form teams.
The visitors arrived in Edinburgh sitting fourth but met Hearts on a day when their finishing was clinical. John Sutton and Gordon Smith started together in attack as McGlynn changed his formation to 4-4-2. He had endured criticism for leaving both Sutton and Smith on the substitutes’ bench recently, and the alteration worked both strikers linked well and moved off the ball to good effect.
Aberdeen took command of the early stages, with Johnny Hayes and Josh Magennis running freely down the visitors’ right flank. Ryan McGowan headed Andy Driver’s corner narrowly wide on 25 minutes, and Hayes would have scored seconds later on the break but for the fingertips of Jamie MacDonald.
Hearts grew in confidence as the first half progressed and earned a vital advantage through Stevenson’s penalty. The midfielder’s free-kick was deflected wide and, from the resultant corner, Magennis impeded McGowan whilst the ball was airborne. Referee Euan Norris pointed instantly to the spot, and Stevenson drove the ball high into the top corner for his first goal since returning to Tynecastle from Ipswich Town in August.
Stevenson was replaced by Paterson during the interval having clashed heads with Aberdeen’s Joseph Shaughnessy late in the first half. Paterson volleyed Sutton’s headed knockdown over from an acute angle on 51 minutes, however he waited only three more minutes to ripple the net. Excellent movement and running from Smith on the right took him past Shaughnessy and created an opening inside the Aberdeen penalty area. The forward slid the ball into Paterson’s pass for an emphatic finish off Jamie Langfield’s right post.
Aberdeen then introduced attacking reinforcements in Rory Fallon and Jamie Masson an effort to get back into this match. In the 69th minute, only a brilliant reflex save by MacDonald denied Scott Vernon as he tried to convert a loose ball which broke off Shaughnessy ten yards from goal. Masson lashed the ball high into the away support from a central position near the edge of the penalty area.
The danger for the home side was retreating too far hoping to defend their lead. They sprung out in time for the closing stages, and Langfield was called upon to deal with shots from substitute Denis Prychynenko and Marius Zaliukas with five minutes remaining.
The final whistle prompted rousing cheer from a home support clearly delighted at seeing their team suitably rewarded for taking their goalscoring opportunities.
Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; R McGowan, Webster, Zaliukas, McHattie; Stevenson (Paterson 46), Barr, Taouil (Prychynenko 78), Driver; Sutton, Smith (Carrick 68). Subs: Enckelman, Walker, B King, A King.
Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): Langfield; Magennis, Anderson (Masson 61), Reynolds, Shaughnessy; Rae, Considine; Hayes, Smith (Fallon 61), Vernon (McManus 78); McGinn. Subs: Jason Brown, Megginson, Jordon Brown, Murray.
Referee: Euan Norris.