A team transformed, Boyce signing already paying dividends, Sibbick with promising start - three observations from Hearts 2-1 Rangers
Analysis from Tynecastle as Hearts defeat Rangers in the Ladbrokes Premiership
That performance was night and day compared with much of 2019/20
Hearts didn't show any fear playing against Rangers. Right from the start they went about winning the territorial battle, something they only relinquished for a brief period after the opening goal. Even Rangers boss Steven Gerrard admitted his side didn't fight or work as hard as their hosts, who deserved the three points. Barring two players - debutants Liam Boyce and Toby Sibbick - it's hard to believe this is the same Hearts squad who meekly lost 5-0 to Rangers the last time the two teams met. The players are responding to Daniel Stendel's methods and things are getting better as a result. The County game showed that it's not all going to be plain sailing. There are still questions over the midfield and they need to replicate this type of performance away from Tynecastle, but even though they're still bottom of the table, the likely threat of relegation is finally starting to shrink rather than grow.
The striker's contribution of one assist and one goal in a 2-1 win was obvious, but it was the manner in which he achieved those feats which underlined just how important he will be for Hearts for the remainder of this season. It may seem like a simple thing to calmly pick out a team-mate with a cut-back or to coolly dummy a defender to create more space for a shot, but it's this kind of composure that Hearts have badly lacked in the final third all season. In addition, he ran himself into the ground over the course of the 90 minutes and showed some nice touches with regards to his link-up play and ability to play with his back to goal.
The early signs are promising from Sibbick
Like Boyce, the 20-year-old Barnsley loanee was thrown right into the starting XI after joining the club late on Friday night. He started alongside Andy Irving in a youthful midfield that played well above its station. The two complimented each other well and it'll be interesting to see what Stendel does when Michael Smith returns to fitness and presumably takes up a role in the engine room. Sibbick's sheer size and strength worked well alongside Irving's composure. He won the ball back in advanced areas and made himself available for a pass when in the final third. He then had to move to left-back in the second half where, despite clearly being right-footed, he also performed admirably. Boyce will deservedly get all the headlines, but Sibbick looks like being a solid addition as well.