A FIFTH consecutive win kept Hearts top of the Ladbrokes Premiership following the first league victory over Partick Thistle at Tynecastle since January 2005.
Osman Sow, Sam Nicholson and Juanma were the goalscorers to maintain the Edinburgh club’s 100 per cent league record.
Partick Thistle played their part in an open and entertaining game but lacked guile in attack and couldn’t open up the home defence. Their opponents had sufficient flair up front to cause damage, with Nicholson and Juanma in particular standing out in front of a crowd numbering 16,657.
A comprehensive win continues Hearts’ impressive start to the campaign and keeps them ahead of the rest in the league. Their attacking threat proved too much for Partick, who struggled to cope with the movement and strength of players like Juanma and Sow.
Hearts arrived at Tynecastle knowing Celtic had displaced them atop the Ladbrokes Premiership after their 3-1 win at Tannadice in the day’s lunchtime kick-off. They also knew another full house would be behind them with every home and away ticket sold for this match. Jamie Walker was a notable absentee for the home side due to an injury complaint, his starting slot taken by Gavin Reilly.
The early stages were frenetic and high tempo as both teams tried to pass the ball crisply. There were penalty shouts from Hearts fans as first Prince Buaben and then Callum Paterson went down under challenges from Thistle’s David Amoo and Daniel Seaborne respectively. Then Nicholson forced a fingertip save from the visiting goalkeeper Tomas Cerny with a 20-yard attempt at goal.
Although Thistle got the ball forward regularly, they weren’t creating clear openings. Ryan Stevenson was involved all too rarely in the final third on his return to Tynecastle. At the other end, Hearts’ creativity carved open their opponents frequently. Nicholson’s trickery, movement and corner-kick delivery were especially troublesome.
Paterson’s header from one of the winger’s corners was cleared by Kris Doolan, Alim Ozturk recycled the ball and promptly nutmegged Frederic Frans on the edge of the penalty area, only for Paterson to shoot wide. Seconds later, another Nicholson corner was flicked on by Juanma and volleyed wide by Igor Rossi as the goal beckoned.
It was no surprise that Nicholson supplied the corner which led to the game’s first goal in the 29th minute. Paterson was in for the aerial challenge and, after a couple of ricochets, the ball broke for Sow to stroke it home from around four yards out. It was no more than Hearts’ pressure deserved.
Juanma’s hold-up play was another feature of the first half as the Spaniard used his own ball control and strength to excellent effect. He earned plenty applause for his efforts in out-foxing the Partick Thistle defence single-handedly at times. As he gets fitter and stronger, it would appear Hearts have a real attacking asset on their hands.
It was clear at the interval that Robbie Neilson’s team needed a second goal in order to kill this game. Nicholson wasted the perfect chance on 55 minutes after a penetrating run and through pass from midfielder Morgaro Gomis. Eyeballing Cerny in the inside-right channel, the winger rolled his shot wide of the far post. Juanma dispatched a shot over the crossbar on the turn as that second goal remained elusive.
Eventually, in the 68th minute, it arrived. Paterson won a penalty when he was fouled by Stuart Bannigan while sprinting on to an inside pass by substitute Billy King. Juanma took the spot-kick, only for Cerny to save down to his left. Nicholson was on hand to ram the rebound beyond the helpless Czech.
Three minutes later came the icing on the cake for the Hearts support, and redemption for Juanma. Gomis’ through ball set the forward off in a one-on-one chase with Frans. Juanma outpaced his opponent, held off his challenge and then impishly lobbed the bouncing ball over the advancing Cerny. The decibel level inside Tynecastle rose with victory now confirmed.
Thistle would have reduced the deficit had substitute Abdul Osman’s header from a corner not been blocked on the goal line by his fellow replacement Sean McKirdy. At the opposite end, Cerny’s excellent reaction save pushed Reilly’s shot for a corner to deny Hearts a fourth. The goalkeeper also pushed a vicious drive from Paterson to safety as the final whistle neared.
Neilson handed a debut to another youth academy graduate in 16-year-old Callumn Morrison, who replaced Juanma with three minutes left. He would have been delighted with the experience at such a young age. All in all, this was a very productive day from Hearts’ perspective.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Rossi, Oshaniwa; Buaben, Gomis; Sow, Reilly, Nicholson; Juanma.
64: King for Sow
74: McKirdy for Buaben
87: Morrison for Juanma
Unused subs: Hamilton, McHattie, Oliver, McGhee.
Partick Thistle (4-2-3-1): Cerny; Miller, Seaborne, Frans, Booth; Welsh, Bannigan; Fraser, Stevenson, Amoo; Doolan.
57: Lawless for Stevenson
62: Osman for Welsh
74: McDaid for Amoo
Unused subs: Scully, Wilson, Hendry, Nisbet.
Referee: John Beaton.