Maroon memories: Michael Ngoo at the double for Hearts
Hearts 4, Ross County 2. SPL, Saturday, April 6, 2013
Three goals in five minutes earned Hearts a 4-2 comeback win over Ross County in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
The visitors had been leading 2-1 going into the last quarter of an hour with a double from Steffen Wohlfarth coming each side of Michael Ngoo’s 49th minute equaliser.
Substitute Jason Holt equalised for the hosts on 79 minutes and an Evangelos Oikonomou own goal gave them the lead 60 seconds later. Ngoo then completed the goal flurry in the 84th minute.
The final result was not what the travelling team deserved. They dominated the first half and could have been out of sight before Hearts’ late fightback.
The late announcement from the home stadium that man of the match was home goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald summed up the events of the day.
Hearts started the brighter, with Brad McKay and Jamie Walker going close, but soon their more experienced and assured opponents settled down, taking the lead in the 22nd minute.
The returning Jamie Hamill, making his first start after missing 11 months through injury, was turned too easily by Wohlfarth on the left of the penalty area. Despite an acute angle the striker blasted the ball into the top corner of the net.
It should have been 2-0 moments later. The returning Ivan Sproule, sent through by Rocco Quinn, saw his shot saved by MacDonald when one-on-one with the Hearts keeper.
Next it was Quinn to be denied. The midfielder got plenty of power behind his shot from 20 yards but could only direct it straight at McDonald, who gathered at the second attempt.
Kevin McHattie hit the post from long range but it was a brief spark in an otherwise poor first half performance and the visitors finished the half on top, Sproule seeing a swept shot from inside the area parried by the keeper.
Hearts boss Gary Locke responded to the lacklustre display with a half-time double substitution, introducing attacking midfielders Holt and Arvydas Novikovas, and it had its desired effect within four minutes of the restart.
McHattie swung in a high ball to the edge of the six-yard box and Ngoo was able to climb highest and nod it past Fraser.
The parity lasted only five minutes. Under pressure from Sproule, McHattie was only able to clear the ball out for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Iain Vigurs’ inswinging cross found the front post run of Wohlfarth - who headed his side back in front.
The drama tailed off with Derek Adams’ side retreating somewhat to protect their lead and Hearts finally looking able to deal with their opponents’ counter-attack.
With time ticking away County looked in complete control of the game, until the visitors were unable to properly deal with another cross from the left.
This time the ball was cleared only as far as Holt, whose left-footed hook shot from 18 yards found the far corner of the net to level the scores.
A minute later Hearts took an improbable lead. Ngoo received a pass from Holt and slipped in Walker, running in behind the defence. The young winger’s awkward effort was edging wide before Oikonomou’s desperate attempt at a clearance sent the ball crashing into the back of his own net.
The self-destruction was not finished. Scott Boyd, under pressure from Sutton and Ngoo, conceded possession to the former whose square-ball to the latter allowed the on-loan Liverpool striker to drive a low shot past Fraser.
It doubled his goal tally for the match and ensured Hearts won all three points - an unlikely prospect for much of the contest.
Hearts: J MacDonald, J Hamill, K McHattie, B McKay, C Tapping (J Holt, 46), D Wilson, R Stevenson, M Taouil (A Novikovas, 46), M Ngoo, D Carrick (J Sutton, 71), J Walker. Subs not used: M Ridgers, G Smith, D Smith, D McGowan.
Ross County: M Fraser, M Kovacevic, E Ikonomou, G Munro, P Lawson (G Glen, 86), S Boyd (A Hainault, 86), I Sproule, R Brittain, S Wohlfarth, I Vigurs, R Quinn (M Scott, 76). Subs not used: P Gallacher, A Cooper, A MacPhee, Steven Ross.
Referee: A Muir.