Hearts debrief: James Hill superb but for one moment, defensive errors again, Garang Kuol's celebration
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Player of the match
James Hill. Ok, here me out. Yes he slipped in the build-up to the equalising goal, which ultimately turned the game and set Hearts on a path to a result which meant they wouldn’t have a chance of finishing third on the final day of the season. But it was a mistake that wasn’t entirely his fault. It was a slick surface at Ibrox with a few players losing their footing in the opening period. It just happened to occur at the worst possible time, and he almost salvaged the situation by throwing his skull in the path of the ball. Unfortunately it rebounded perfectly for Todd Cantwell to advance on goal. Otherwise, Hill was excellent. Every ball which came into the penalty area he managed to repel and Hearts wouldn’t have got any sort of result from this game were it not for him.
Hearts stormed to third last season with a defence which gave up only 44 goals. That’s really not bad in a league with two teams who have the kind of financial clout where they should be sticking five past opponents every game. Already this season with one game to go Hearts have conceded 12 more times and, having scored eight more goals, that’s ultimately what cost them third. Toby Sibbick’s error which allowed Rangers to go 2-1 up was symptomatic of the errors at the back which have plagued this campaign, especially in 2023.
The initial decision to rule out Lawrence Shankland’s opener was an absolute shocker, but VAR correctly overturned that. Afterwards, the officials didn’t do all that badly, especially for a game in Glasgow. John Beaton let play go whenever he could and wasn’t overly card happy.
Benefit of hindsight
It’s been done before but… had Steven Naismith been in the job a couple of games earlier then perhaps this battle for third place was salvageable.
Moment you may have missed
The body language of many Hearts players as Garang Kuol vaulted the advertising hoardings to celebrate with the away fans after scoring the equaliser in injury-time, seeing as they still needed another goal to stay in the race with Aberdeen.