CLINICAL finishing was the stand-out feature of Hearts’ trip to Kirkcaldy as five different scorers secured a resounding win over Raith Rovers.
Kevin McHattie, Billy King, Jamie Walker, Ryan Stevenson and Gary Oliver all bulged the net at Stark’s Park, although manager Gary Locke refused to read too much into the result.
“I didn’t get too disappointed when we were well beaten by Dinamo Bucharest last week and I’m not going to get overly carried away with last night. It was a good performance, especially in the second half. I’m delighted we had quite a few different goalscorers,” he said.
Locke’s realism is to be expected given Raith will play in Scotland’s second tier this season, whilst Hearts must overhaul a 15-point deficit to remain in the top flight. However, this friendly offered evidence that his young team is gelling together after losing to Dinamo and beating Dunfermline in their first two pre-season fixtures.
Raith utilised the experience of players like Calum Elliot, Gordon Smith, Joe Cardle and Callum Booth, but were overwhelmed by some ruthless striking from their visitors.
“We only really created two chances in the first half and took them. Then we scored another three in the second half,” said Locke. “We had a desire not to lose a goal and a desire to score them at the other end. Calum Elliot is a good player but Brad McKay and Dylan McGowan both dealt with him very well. I was pleased with that.”
Grant Murray, the Raith Rovers manager, watched his team press forward relentlessly during an impressive first-half display, but they still faced a 2-0 deficit at half-time.
“We did create a few chances but Hearts’ lethal finishing was a lesson to us,” said Murray. “There were individual errors from us and we need to eradicate that. Hearts showed us that quality counts and 5-0 is a comfortable win for them. It wasn’t just when they had the ball, when they didn’t have it they worked us hard and didn’t give us an opportunity to move it about like we had done in our previous two friendlies.”
Raith signed the former Livingston defender Paul Watson prior to kick-off and he started in central defence. However, he couldn’t prevent McHattie opening the scoring after only five minutes. McGowan’s shot following a corner was blocked and the left-back was well positioned to convert the loose ball with his right foot around eight yards out.
Jamie MacDonald saved Grant Anderson’s goalbound flick at the opposite end, and on the half-hour mark he collected a Liam Fox volley following Joe Cardle’s first-time lay-off. Raith had grown in confidence after the early concession and Elliot, one of several former Hearts players in their squad, was inches away from converting Fox’s low cross on 37 minutes.
Hearts’ second goal deflated the hosts somewhat as the interval approached. Callum Tapping’s sliding pass released King and, after a quick step-over, he lashed the ball through the diving Raith goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw from 18 yards.
Five minutes after the interval, Walker put the result beyond doubt. He latched on to a loose bouncing ball badly misjudged by Watson and sprinted past Dougie Hill for a calm finish beyond Laidlaw.
The young winger had a hand in the fourth goal, his venomous shot from distance being beaten out by Laidlaw, only for Stevenson to score the rebound. With two minutes remaining, 18-year-old Oliver scored his maiden goal at first-team level with a header from trialist Gary Naysmith’s cross.
There were 932 Hearts fans amongst a crowd of 1825, and they left encouraged by the goalscoring feats from the youngsters on show. Raith did not deserve to lose 5-0 on the balance of play, but they caught Hearts on a night when their finishing was as hot as the summer sun blazing over Stark’s Park.
Raith Rovers (4-4-2): Laidlaw; Thomson, Watson (Ellis 69), Hill, Booth; Anderson, Moon (Trialist 76), Fox, Cardle (Callachan 54); Spence (Smith 65), Elliot. Subs: Donaldson, Vaughan, Murray, Matthews, McGurn.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; Hamill, McKay, McGowan, McHattie (Naysmith 73); Tapping, Robinson (A King 84); Smith (Nicholson 77), Walker (Oliver 84), B King; Stevenson. Subs: Ridgers, Gordon.