Unlikely comeback helps lift the gloom for Hearts

Michael Ngoo celebrates scoring his second goal as Hearts stunned Ross County. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Michael Ngoo celebrates scoring his second goal as Hearts stunned Ross County. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Hearts captain Ryan Stevenson believes everyone at the club will get a big lift from the team’s first comeback win of a disappointing season.

Hearts 4-2 Ross County

Scorers: Hearts - Ngoo (49, 84), Holt (79), Iknonomou (og 80); Ross County - Wohlfarth (22, 54)

Referee: A Muir

Attendance: 10,456

With Hearts in 11th place and long confined to the bottom six thanks to just one win in nine games, a lack of fighting spirit would have been understandable against a Ross County side chasing Europe. A point, never mind three, looked unlikely with the hosts trailing to an impressive double by Steffen Wohlfarth. The German, making his first start for County, scored a cracking opener after firing the ball into the top corner from a tight angle before restoring his side’s advantage with a header five minutes after Michael Ngoo had scored for Hearts.

However, Hearts responded with three goals in five minutes to steal all three points. Despite having little to play for in the league table, Stevenson sees the victory as an important one for a young Hearts side. “I don’t think we’ve come from behind this season and won,” said Stevenson. “It’s a big result this. Where we are in the league table and with the cup final not too long ago, there is still a bit of gloom about the place. We just want to try and finish the season as strongly as we can. The win gives everybody a lift.”

The fightback was inspired by a double substitution at half-time, and the late addition of John Sutton, which put more emphasis on getting balls into the penalty area. When County failed to deal with one such cross, Jason Holt hooked in a 20-yard shot to bring Hearts level before an own goal from Evangelos Ikonomou gave the home team the lead. Ngoo then wrapped the points up with an 84th-minute drive. The second-half display instilled the confidence in Gary Locke, winning his first match since being made permanent manager, that his players are willing to fight until the end of the season.

“The players showed the type of spirit that I am looking for,” said Locke. “If they give me that between now and the end of the season then I will be happy. I’m not bothered about any other team and where they are. I am just concerned about putting on performances here that the fans are going to like and try and get as many points as we can.”

A disbelieving Ross County boss Derek Adams watched, for the second week in succession, his side dominate a game but take nothing from it. Trailing Inverness by six points in third place, he admitted that achieving a European place may now be unlikely. “We’ve had a terrific season but we will start looking towards next season now,” he said.