IT WAS a day when Hearts took a while to get going, but it ended up being a pretty productive afternoon, which will be encouraging for the Jambos’ fans and a warning to the rest of this league that even when Robbie Neilson’s men are not at their finest, they are still able to carve out a 5-1 victory.
Scorers: Hearts - King 15, Walker 48, Sow 55 (pen), Carrick 79, 87; Cowdenbeath - Gallagher 21′
This success may have come against Cowdenbeath, the team propping up the table, but it was the first time Hearts had recorded their fans’ favourite scoreline since routing their Edinburgh rivals 5-1 in the Scottish Cup final two years ago and it extended their lead at the top of the Championship in the process.
The Fifers’ manager Jimmy Nicholl described it as a game of two halves, but added that he wished it had only been one. Given how his side fell apart in the second period and allowed Hearts to serve up a skelping, that is hardly surprising. He said it was embarrassing and denounced the Blue Brazil’s concentration levels as horrific and insisted it is hard to fathom where a win will come from if they can’t address those issues. He was also less than impressed with the decision to give the home side a penalty, which effectively killed off the game.
The hallmark of Hearts’ play early in the season has been their passing and movement. Everything has been done at a high tempo and interplay has been accurate. Combined, that has allowed them to carve out openings and with decent regularity they have had the wherewithal to convert them, but that intensity and fluidity was missing in the first half.
Having conceded the lead in the 15th minute when Billy King had a lovely touch to compose himself in a central area inside the box before lashing the ball into the net, the Fife side took only six minutes to get the equaliser. Kudus Oyenuga, on loan from Dundee United, was a powerful option and was one of those intent on taking the game to the home side. In the 21st minute he forced Neil Alexander to get down to a low strike, but the Hearts keeper could not hold the ball and Callum Gallagher was first to follow in and level the scoreline.
Osman Sow then worked the Cowdenbeath keeper Robbie Thomson at the other end, his manager praising the save and adding that he was unlucky to then be on the end of such a sore loss.
And it was a sore one for the side who remain bottom of the league, with only one point from the first six Championship games. At the break they were deservedly level, but Hearts deserve credit for moving up a gear or two in the second half.
They had struggled slightly at Dumbarton last week and were sloppy again in the first 45 minutes yesterday. The pace of play was too pedestrian to be dangerous, especially as the passing was errant at times. Lackadaisical was the word used by Neilson and he demanded that they up the standards after the interval.
The second half was a lot better. Within three minute of the restart they re-established their lead when Jamie Walker’s header went in off the inside of the post and six minute later he was involved in his side’s third. Progressing along the byline, he was tripped by Darren Brownlie and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Stepping up, Sow hit the perfect penalty, with power and placement, leaving the keeper helpless.
Cowdenbeath didn’t give up and threw caution to the wind, hoping that they could turn attack into a better form of defence. It wasn’t a successful tactic and they conceded another two goals, with substitute Dale Carrick getting both. The first was in the 79th minute, the second followed in the 86th and in between he would have had another if the bar had not denied him.
The fact that strike had been from an almost identical spot from the effort he wrapped things up with only compounded Nicholl’s ire.
The home fans were jubilant, though, the scoreline being one they are partial to. The mood was only enhanced when news came through that Hibs had lost and their nearest challengers for the league lead, Rangers, had only drawn.