JAMES Keatings and Callum Paterson scored the goals as Hearts recorded their 14th win in 16 league matches this season.
Referee: Crawford Allan
Scorers: Hearts - Keatings (16), Paterson (29)
A 2-0 victory over Alloa maintained the Edinburgh club’s unbeaten run and kept them nine points ahead of second-placed Rangers at the top of the Scottish Championship.
In many ways it was a straightforward afternoon for the hosts, who were 2-0 ahead inside 30 minutes. Alloa tried to play a passing game but could not reach Hearts’ tempo and threatened little in the final third.
For Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson, it was a pleasing start to a week containing three league matches. After Alloa come Cowdenbeath on Tuesday night and Livingston next Saturday before the Edinburgh derby with Hibs to begin the New Year.
Despite stating an intention to leave Tynecastle and restart his career elsewhere, Scott Robinson made the Hearts starting line-up in midfield. Captain Danny Wilson had to leave the field during the early stages because of a cut to his head, which he claimed was a result of an opponent’s elbow. Moments after he returned, his team opened the scoring.
Alloa got themselves into a mess passing the ball around in defence and lost possession after Prince Buaben’s tackle. Miguel Pallardo collected the loose ball and bounced a pass off Keatings before supplying the striker for a crisp low finish with his left foot.
Buaben himself dispatched an effort on goal from distance on 26 minutes which the Alloa goalkeeper Craig McDowall held well. However, Hearts did double their advantage before the half-hour mark. Paterson scampered into the box and, when Jamie Walker’s cross arrived at the front post, the full-back was well positioned to convert the second goal from close range.
Alloa struck a post five minutes from the interval after Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander spilled a cross. The loose ball was hit first time by Graeme Holmes and took a deflection before bouncing off Alexander’s right post. It was the closest the visitors came to a goal.
Hearts passed up the chance to put this game to bed early in the second period. Keatings’ flick across goal found the unmarked Billy King but his left-footed attempt bounced wide from around eight yards out. Moments later, the impressive Pallardo struck the crossbar with a delicate attempt from 20 yards.
Sam Nicholson and Jason Holt both made their returns from injury as substitutes, replacing Walker and Robinson respectively. They almost made an immediate impact, playing a one-two before Nicholson delivered a 25-yard shot which McDowall pushed for a corner.
The game began to peter out from then on. Alloa had accepted their fate and Hearts were content with a comfortable win. A late chance fell to Holt following Paterson’s run and cross but the midfielder’s shot was held by McDowall.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson, Eckersley; Robinson, Pallardo; Walker, Buaben, King; Keatings.
66: Nicholson for Walker
66: Holt for Robinson
84: Oliver for Keatings
Unused subs: Hamilton, McKay, Buchanan, McGhee.
Alloa (4-4-2): McDowall; Doyle, Gordon, Benedictus, Meggatt; McCord, Simmons, Docherty, Holmes; Buchanan, Spence.
54: Cawley for Meggatt
88: Ferns for Spence
Unused subs: Couser, Hetherington, Marr, Tiffoney.