Hearts fans chant new Cameron Devlin song on Aussie's home debut as Jambos overwhelm Livingston
A performance like this every time he appears at Tynecastle Park will quickly accord Cameron Devlin fan-favourite status.
As Hearts overwhelmed Livingston with goals from Michael Smith and Alex Cochrane plus a Liam Boyce penalty, their Australian home debutant demonstrated why he was plucked from the A-League last month.
Tenacious tacking, boundless energy, crisp passing, intelligent positioning and impressive heading were only some of the attributes he offered. If there is a notable step up from football Down Under to the cinch Premiership, he made the transition appear utterly seamless.
Devlin is just 23 and still adapting to life on and off the field in Edinburgh. Very little seems to faze him, and nothing Livingston could offer in this match perturbed him in the slightest.
When Hearts supporters taunted opposition players that they were “just a s**** Cammy Devlin” during the second half, it highlighted the affection already bestowed upon the diminutive midfielder.
He wasn’t the only man in maroon to stand out in this one-sided affair. Taylor Moore was imperious on the right of a three-man defence which looked far more secure following last week’s change to a back four at Ross County.
Beni Baningime ably assisted Devlin in central midfield, while another recent signing Barrie McKay looked fitter and more dangerous in attack. Livingston failed to impose themselves and did not keep possession when they needed to.
Hearts had waited 15 years for a top-flight win against the West Lothian club but missed centre-back John Souttar, who sustained a knock in training and wasn’t risked. Livingston started with Andrew Shinnie as their attacking focal point following his winning goal against Celtic last weekend.
The home team patiently passed the ball around during the early period and threatened most down their right flank. Moore, Souttar’s deputy for the day, confidently advanced in possession and linked well with right wing-back Smith and forward McKay.
The move which produced the afternoon’s opening goal began from that area of the field on 25 minutes. Firstly, McKay’s delightful bodyswerve on the touchline left Adam Lewis for dead. His cross to Cochrane was perfectly cushioned back for the onrushing Smith to volley powerfully beyond Livingston’s Max Stryjek.
The Polish goalkeeper stopped Ben Woodburn’s swerving free-kick five minutes later but that merely delayed the inevitable second Hearts goal. Boyce assuredly converted it from the penalty spot after Baningime was impeded inside the area by Ben Williamson.
At 2-0, manager Robbie Neilson continued urging his side forward. Smith dispatched another attempt from distance which Stryjek pushed over his crossbar. The visitors were pinned back and struggling to offer an attacking threat. When they did, Devlin frequently snuffed it out.
Stryjek leapt at full stretch to stop Stephen Kingsley’s free-kick reaching the net after the interval. He also intercepted McKay’s chipped effort in a one-against-one after Ayo Obileye’s wayward defensive pass.
The third goal did arrive when McKay swivelled and sent a low ball across goal for Cochrane to stroke home at the back post. By then, it was game over.
Hearts (3-4-3): Gordon; Moore, Halkett (Haring 89), Kingsley (Halliday 71); M Smith, Baningime, Devlin, Cochrane; McKay (Mackay-Steven 77), Boyce (Gnanduillet 63), Woodburn.
Livingston (4-4-1-1): Stryjek; Devlin, Obileye, Fitzwater, Penrice; McMillan; Holt, Williamson (Omeonga 46), Lewis (Longridge 46); Bailey (Anderson 65); Shinnie.
Referee: Gavin Duncan.