Almost 19 months on from his last appearance at Tynecastle, in what was a goalless Edinburgh derby in December 2017, Jamie Walker was back playing in front of the Hearts supporters, and the 26-year-old looked to be in his element.
He spoke earlier this month about a desire to win over any fans who were disappointed with the way things ended in his previous spell as his form dipped amid strong links with Rangers before he eventually moved to Wigan Athletic.
If first impressions are anything to go by, then Walker looks in the mood to back up his words. Starting wide right in a 4-4-2, he began the game with intent and menace, regularly driving at opponents and forcing his way into the danger area whenever the opportunity arose. He had a couple of good chances and went particularly close when being denied by Benjamin Siegrist after running on to Uche Ikpeazu’s through ball. He also showed a willingness to do the dirty side of the game when winning a full-blooded tackle just in front of the Hearts technical area.
Understandably given his lack of action over the past year, Walker’s impact waned after the break, but he could be pretty happy with his contribution. The home support were certainly impressed with his efforts, giving him warm applause when he was substituted with ten minutes left as as tired legs took their toll.
The other new face in the Hearts side was Northern Irishman Conor Washington who partnered Ikpeazu in attack. Washington’s display wasn’t quite as eye-catching as Walker’s but there were enough signs of promise from the new striker to suggest that, once he is operating at full sharpness, he can be an effective foil for Ikpeazu. He was in the thick of the action before the break, going close on a couple of occasions and also taking up some clever positions and making some incisive passes in the danger area. He struggled after the break as United defended valiantly and his legs began to tire, but early impressions are that both of the debutants look capable of making Hearts a more threatening team, particularly once Steven Naismith returns to knit the attack together.