Hearts clinched third place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a comfortable victory at home to Dundee United in their final match of the season at Tynecastle.
The Jam Tarts were already assured of a place in the Europa League before a ball had even been kicked but this victory ensured they’d finish third with a game to spare.
Marius Zaliukas dropped out through suspension for Csaba Laszlo’s side, along with injured Laryea Kingston. Greek defender Christos Karipidis and Ruben Palazuelos were restored.
Given Hearts’ European qualification, there was a feelgood factor around the stadium and it was almost helped by an early goal for the hosts.
Lee Wallace’s fine run and cross down the left picked out Bruno Aguiar whose sharp eight-yard shot was straight at goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska.
Laszlo’s team appeared in the mood and continued their lively opening when Lee Wilkie blocked a Calum Elliot effort, before David Obua saw a shot deflected wide from Palazuelos’ cross.
But a deserved breakthrough was only delayed until the 11th minute. Elliot held the ball up superbly in the penalty area and on-rushing left-back Wallace burst through to collect and strike a sweet finish across Zaluska.
United, backed by a strong away support, replied when Marian Kello turned David Goodwillie’s strike around the post, before Prince Buaben flashed a shot wide from distance.
But Hearts were soon back on the front foot and Aguiar curled a dipping free kick over the bar.
United claimed for a penalty on 25 minutes after Goodwillie went down just inside the area under pressure from Eggert Jonsson, but referee Brian Winter was unmoved and instead warned the youngster.
Within seconds, Laszlo’s men had rushed up the park to net their second. Elliot did well on the right to cut back for Aguiar who clipped the ball beyond Zaluska at the near post for his seventh strike of the season.
David Robertson fired over as United sought a foothold in the game, before another failed penalty claim on 35 minutes again riled the Tangerines.
Francisco Sandaza went down trying to turn Karipidis, but Winter instead cautioned the Spaniard for diving.
United were in need of an early reply after the interval, but Hearts appeared content to stay compact and frustrate them.
Craig Conway’s 55th-minute free-kick was deflected wide by Jonsson, but United were generally struggling for openings and Palazuelos was next to threaten for Hearts from long range.
The match became a scrappy affair as Hearts held on to their advantage, with Garry Kenneth picking up a booking for his obvious displeasure at proceedings.
Elliot had a glorious chance to increase the home side’s lead on 70 minutes but his volley soared over.
As United pushed more players forward, Kello did well to turn away a dangerous Kenneth cross before Morgaro Gomis struck a 25-yard drive straight at the goalkeeper.
However, it was game over for the visitors 11 minutes from time. Elliot was pushed over by Kenneth in the box and Jonsson stroked home the spot-kick.
Hearts: Kello, Neilson, Wallace, Karipidis, Stewart, Jonsson, Obua, Mrowiec, Elliot, Aguiar, Palazuelos.