Hearts debrief: Ginnelly back in the frame; Gordon heroics; beer fountain; Halkett down but not 'out out'

A look back at the takeaways and talking points from last night’s 2-0 victory for Hearts in Riga as the Capital side move up to second in Europa Conference League Group A.
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Given he appeared to have kicked his last ball for the club little more than a fortnight ago, Josh Ginnelly was handed a rare start in Riga that might have caught a few Jambos by surprise. But his overall display in the Latvian capital vindicated Robbie Neilson's decision to go with the English winger as despite spurring a gilt-edged opportunity to fire the visitors in front early on with the goal gaping, he knuckled down and took the game by the scuff of the neck. His pace and trickery caused the home side's defence a real conundrum. He was at the heart of everything good about the Jambos last night and If he can produce performances of a similar ilk in the weeks ahead, he can expect to find himself a lot more involved both domestically and in Europe.


Hearts players celebrate their win in Riga - including Craig Halkett. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov).Hearts players celebrate their win in Riga - including Craig Halkett. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov).
Hearts players celebrate their win in Riga - including Craig Halkett. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov).

Craig Gordon picked up his first clean sheet of the season and boy did he work hard for it. Two instinctive stops, just minutes after Lawrence Shankland had fired Hearts into the lead from the penalty spot, kept his side in the driving seat going into the half-time interval. Had Gordon failed to keep out those point-blank range efforts then it might have been a very different second 45 for the Jambos in Riga.


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A section of Hearts fans were showered with beer as Alan Forrest's decisive strike in stoppage time sent the visiting fans into delirium. The TV cameras were well positioned to capture the moment several plastic tumblers were thrown into the air.


It proved a fairly straightforward evening for referee Aleksandar Stavrev at the Skonto Stadium as he got the big call right. Elvis Stuglis' handball from Andy Halliday's cross three minutes before the interval wasn't even contentious. The defender was correctly penalised for his actions and Shankland did the rest from 12 yards.


It was a huge boost to learn Craig Halkett, not seen since the Europa League play-off first-leg defeat to Zurich last month, had travelled with the team to the Baltic states. There was even greater euphoria to see the defender listed in Neilson's starting XI. And, despite an encouraging start, the hamstring injury that has plagued the 27-year-old former Livingston for the last month, had to be replaced by Lewis Neilson. The early signs are encouraging that it's just a slight tweak, and although he is set to miss out against Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday, Neilson is hopeful he will be available after the international break.