Nathaniel Atkinson had a very strong debut, Liam Boyce scored twice, and Barrie McKay displayed his usual wizardry, but we’re going to go for Andy Halliday. The versatile left-sided player has his detractors in the Hearts support, but he put in an excellent performance on the left of the front three. He was direct, purposeful, scored one goal and played a significant role in two more. Has he usurped Gary Mackay-Steven in the attacking-midfield pecking order? We shall see.
Halliday’s header feels like the most pertinent option here. If this was going to be a relaxing afternoon it was imperative Hearts got themselves an early goal, thereby killing Auchinleck’s hope and drawing them out. That it came so soon after a wrongly-disallowed goal (more on that in a second) was also of some importance.
In the end it didn’t affect the result, but it’s got to be one of the worst officiating performances Hearts have been subjected to in years. They had one goal wrongly disallowed for offside, a very good chance denied by an even worse call from the same assistant – we’re not calling this a disallowed goal as, even though Boyce put it in the back of the net, it’s clear both the goalkeeper and covering defender stopped at Greg Aitken’s whistle before the striker did so – and one of the clearest handball penalty claims you’re ever likely to see. All of this came in the space of one half!
Benefit of hindsight
Auchinleck will be disappointed they didn’t even let Hearts know they were in for a game. There were few meaty challenges, not much in the way of pressing, it was all very respectful. It was quite similar to the way Hearts approached the 5-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League nine years. The hosts just stood back in awe.
Moment you may have missed
Caught by the BBC cameras but may have been difficult to see for those at the game, Boyce had a bit of fun at the expense of the Auchinleck fans behind the goal who had been trying to put him off his penalty attempt by pointing out the follically-challenged nature of his napper.