THE NEW era at Hearts officially got under way with a 3-1 win over Annan Athletic in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup.
King 8; Sow 18; Paterson 39
Annan Athletic 1
But the convincing victory was overshadowed by a serious knee injury sustained by Callum Paterson.
The right-back will be sent for a scan on Monday and head coach Robbie Neilson estimates that the 19-year-old is facing at least eight weeks on the sidelines. The worst case scenario for Hearts and the player would be a diagnosis of damage to cruciate ligaments, an injury that could effectively end his season.
Paterson, who had netted the third goal just moments before catching his studs on the turf on the stroke of half-time, immediately signalled to the bench for assistance before being taken off on a stretcher.
Billy King opened the scoring at Tynecastle before debutant Osman Sow found the net. The hosts were denied a clean sheet in injury-time when Annan substitute Scott Davidson found the net from 18 yards.
But Neilson, whose side begin their Championship campaign at Rangers on 10 August, was concerned for the welfare of Paterson, who recently signed a new three-year deal.
“He has his leg in a brace and the physio is saying we’ll need to get it scanned on Monday,” said Neilson, who collected a win in his first competitive game in the dugout at the start of the post-administration era.
“You can’t tell with these things until you get them scanned. I think he got a shock and these things are painful, but, hopefully, it’s just a six-to-eight week job – that’s probably the most positive outlook.”
The injury to Paterson was the low point on what was a relatively straightforward afternoon on the pitch.
King notched the opening goal with a superb individual effort after eight minutes. The fleet-footed winger exhibited good close ball control inside the box before cutting back from the byline and unleashing a rising effort that skimmed off the head of Annan defender Iain Chisholm on its way to bulging the net.
Hearts’ dominance brought a second goal after 18 minutes when Sow capped his maiden competitive appearance with a goal. The former Crystal Palace forward was forced wide inside the area following a Dale Carrick flick, but calmly slotted a right-footed reverse shot beyond keeper Alex Mitchell.
Right-back Paterson got himself on the scoresheet six minutes before the break when he was afforded space in the box to head King’s corner in at the back post.
Jordan McGhee was the straight replacement for Paterson at the interval.
The hosts should have added a fourth in the 52nd minute but King, after rounding the goalkeeper inside the box from a Sow pass, dragged his effort wide from a tight angle.
A Dale Carrick run and shot was saved by goalkeeper Mitchell and Annan somehow survived the goal mouth scramble that followed.
Davidson reduced the Black and Golds’ arrears in time added on with a low left-footed shot from 18-yards that curled around the outstretched Alexander.
Annan manager Jim Chapman said: “If you defend like that against any player you’re going to get punishment, the players kept grinding away and we scored what I thought was the best goal of the game.”
Hearts: Alexander; Paterson (McGhee 45), Ozturk, Wilson, McHattie, King, Gomis, Bauben (Holt 64), Nicholson; Carrick; Sow (Oliver 75). Subs not used: Gallacher, Walker, Keatings, McKay.
Annan Athletic: Mitchell, Watson, Chisholm, McNiff, Black, Swinglehurst, McStay, Flynn (Logan 55), Todd (Davidson 85), Hopkirk, Carcary (Sloan 68). Subs not used: Murray, Bradley, Brannan, Caldwell.
Referee: C Murray. Attendance: 6,708.