HEARTS took another big step towards promotion with a 3-1 win at 10-man Raith Rovers.
Goals from Kevin McHattie, Jamie Walker and Billy King secured a seventh straight win and moved the Edinburgh side an incredible 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship.
Rangers slipped up again with a 2-2 draw at home to Alloa Athletic, leaving the Ibrox side 26 points behind Hearts. The Tynecastle side could now clinch the title this weekend – if they win their match against Falkirk on Saturday, and then Hibs and Rangers share the points at Easter Road on Sunday.
But last night Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson admitted he would rather that the title is decided when Hearts are in action – and not because of the result of a match between their nearest challengers in the league.
“We will try to get three points on Saturday but it won’t be an easy game,” said Neilson. “If we do that, to be honest, I’d rather we win it ourselves.
“I won’t see the game on Sunday because I’m on my pro licence in Stirling so my preference would be to win it at Tynecastle [against Queen of the South on 28 March] in front of our own fans.
“No-one has done us any favours all season, we have done it ourselves and I would rather it finished that way as well so that would be best for us because the supporters have backed us all the way this season.
“Winning it at Tynecastle would be better than hearing about it on the back of a result somewhere else.
McHattie marked his first appearance since November with the opening goal after 26 minutes, tapping in James Keatings’ deflected effort from close range.
Raith grabbed an equaliser two minutes before half-time when Ryan Conroy’s corner was headed in by Craig Barr.
But Rovers were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute when Christian Nade was sent off for a foul on McHattie.
Hearts made their advantage count after 79 minutes when Walker cut in from the left and slammed a low shot into the far corner.
And with five minutes remaining Walker teed-up King to wrap up the points.
“It was a good result in the end,” said Neilson. “I felt we played really well in the first half and their keeper made a few fantastic saves.
“But once Nade got sent off I felt it was only a matter of time.
“Jamie came on and gave us a spark, that’s what he does. We know he’s got the quality to score goals like that.”
At Ibrox, Rangers manager Stuart McCall said: “It’s a massive disappointment and I’m massively frustrated. But if people think our season ended tonight, they have got an awakening coming to them.”
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