Barry Anderson's Hearts verdict: Inactive yet ruthless Raith exposed Jambos with dramatic 3-2 win at Tynecastle
Postponements and a Covid outbreak left the Fife club inactive since December 29, but that did not hinder them against the Championship leaders, who suffered for poor defending and found themselves 3-0 down before fighting back to 3-2.
Gozie Ugwu’s first Raith goal on his maiden start secured a 1-0 half-time advantage. That would have doubled but for Craig Gordon’s excellent penalty save from Regan Hendry.
The visitors’ second penalty was earned by Kennedy and converted by substitute Manny Duku just after half-time. Then, from Kennedy’s determined run and cross, Regan Tumilty put Raith 3-0 ahead on 51 minutes.
Hearts reduced the deficit twice with Liam Boyce headers but dogged defending by John McGlynn’s side – plus two superb saves late on from goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald – secured three points.
Despite the Covid issues at Stark’s Park, Raith still fielded a strong side at Tynecastle with winger Kennedy making his debut on loan from Rangers.
They plundered an opening goal inside five minutes. Hearts switched off at a short corner, the delivery wasn’t cleared and the loose ball was prodded home by Ugwu for his first strike in only his second Raith appearance.
The imposing Englishman, signed from National League side Ebbsfleet United last August, dominated the home defence. He won head-flicks and crosses, although at times lacked support in Raith’s 4-1-4-1 system.
His presence led to Hearts manager Robbie Neilson bawling at his defenders to stop being “bullied” during the first half.
Dan Armstrong won Raith a penalty on 24 minutes, his fine wing play drawing a foul from Stephen Kingsley. However, Gordon touched Hendry’s penalty on to his right post at full stretch.
Hearts gave recent signing Gary Mackay-Steven his first start and he produced their first shot on target following a run down the right flank on 38 minutes.
They lost defender Christophe Berra with what looked like a pulled muscle minutes later, Mihai Popescu the replacement.
Raith replaced Ugwu with Duku for the second half and the substitute found the net inside 90 seconds. Another penalty was awarded, this time for an apparent Michael Smith foul on Kennedy as he sprinted into the area.
Duku stroked the spot-kick beyond Gordon to double his team’s advantage. Five minutes later it was three. Again Kennedy was the architect, skinning Halkett on the left and firing a low cross which squirmed past Gordon for Tumilty to convert.
Boyce’s header from substitute Josh Ginnelly’s cross gave Hearts a lifeline and sparked a fightback. Popescu had to continue with his head strapped following a knock.
MacDonald produced exquisite saves from Kingsley’s free-kick and a Michael Smith attempt to keep his former team at bay. Steven Naismith also hit the crossbar with a header.
Into eight minutes of stoppage-time, Boyce glanced home Irving’s cross to bring Hearts within touching distance of a point. Then MacDonald stopped Naismith’s volley in a frantic ending.
However, the final whistle confirmed Hearts’ first home defeat since February 2020. They now travel to Kirkcaldy to play Raith again on Tuesday night.