TICKETS are not going to be easy to come by at Tynecastle this season. With season ticket sales already filling the majority of the stadium, the more casual observers took over the section of the Roseburn Stand not allocated to the visiting support.
Scorers: Hearts - McGhee 17, King 24, 37, Sow 78; Falkirk - Bia-Bi 86
Thanks to the one-touch, free-flowing football produced by Robbie Neilson’s side, it’s likely every one of them will be desperate to return. Technically and mentally bright, the home side produced a rampant performance blessed with self-assurance and swagger. Falkirk could only buckle up, hold on tight and hope for the best. Despite losing by three goals, that is about as much as they could have hoped for as they were swept away by Hearts’ attack which swarmed all over them.
But given Neilson’s gloomy demeanour as he analysed the afternoon’s work, he has set even higher standards. His Falkirk counterpart Peter Houston had admitted the game was all but over at half-time, his side 3-0 down by that stage and fortunate the gap wasn’t even greater, but while he was pleased with what had happened before the interval, he described the second- half showing as “sloppy and slack”.
They still added another goal to the tally but that had to be weighed up against the 71st minute sending off of Prince Bauben for a challenge his manager thought was “tough but fair”. The home gaffer was also unhappy with the late goal conceded to Botte Bia-Bi.
But while Neilson should be applauded for his desire to see his team maintain the high standards they set for themselves, the supporters will prefer to dwell on a first half that enthralled.
Falkirk had been solid defensively against Hibs last week but Houston and goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald said that Hearts posed a different conundrum. Having now faced Rangers and the two capital sides, they said that Hearts were the best they have come up against. Dynamic and direct, they laid siege to the Falkirk goal.
“The first half just felt like never-ending waves of attack,” said the former Hearts keeper. “We couldn’t get going. The goals we lost weren’t great. But that’s not taking anything away from Hearts. They have started well and are full of confidence, especially with 16,000 behind them.
Falkirk’s defending was lax but Hearts were impressive. Full of confidence, a squad who grew accustomed to the grind of last season and the toll of losing more than they won, just four games into this season they are the epitome of self-belief.
With the home crowd lapping up the technique, tenacious running and perpetual movement of their side, the first goal came in the 17th minute when their team were awarded a corner and Billy King swiped in a pacy ball for Jordan McGhee to head home.
The pressure at that stage was unrelenting and MacDonald had to be lively to pull off the stops as well as serve as a makeshift sweeper.
When Alan Maybury gave away a needless penalty in the 24th minute, MacDonald did all he could to stop Hearts doubling their lead. Having saved the initial spot-kick from James Keatings and reacted to block the rebound, he couldn’t get to King’s effort after he was quickest to pounce on the loose ball.
Unafraid to try things, the tricks, flicks and wee back-heels reaped further reward, the best goal of the match highlighting how clinical and unplayable they were at that time. A headed clearance from Kevin McHattie found Nicholson, who had plenty space to advance before cutting back inside, and he then slid a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Keatings on the left and he crossed for King to head into the net.
The intensity did dip as the game wore on and the one-touch football was traded for the more pedantic two, three and four-touch version, but they added a fourth goal, from another penalty, this time in the 78th minute after Will Vaulks had clattered Osman Sow in the area. The striker dusted himself off to send MacDonald the wrong way and although Bia-Bi’s consolation took some of the sheen off the afternoon for Neilson, the fans were not so hard to please. They left happy and looking forward to the next match.
Hearts: Hamilton, McGhee, Ozturk (McKay 66), Wilson, McHattie, King (Holt 72), Bauben, Gomis, Nicholson (Walker 66), Keatings, Sow. Unused subs: Hollis, El Hassnaoui, Holt, Oliver, Eckersley.
Falkirk: MacDonald, Maybury (Rowan 68), Vaulks, McCracken, Dick (Leahy 48), Alston, Durojayie, Taiwo, Cooper (Bia-Bi 48), Loy, Sibbald. Unused subs: Bowman, Grant, Shepherd, Boulding.
Referee: K Clancy. Attendance: 16,369.