HEARTS strengthened their grip on third place in the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 2-0 win over Ross County at Tynecastle.
Goals from Callum Paterson and Osman Sow either side of Blazej Augustyn’s straight red card shortly after half-time moved them five points clear of their opponents in the league table, a result that owed much to their new-found defensive resilience.
Despite a much needed confidence boosting win at Tannadice last weekend, it was County who started the brighter, Neil Alexander having to tip Michael Gardyne’s curling effort round the post in the opening minutes.
That prompted a Hearts response, and Sow bullied his way past Jamie Reckford and Andrew Davies before cutting back to Juanma from the byline, but the striker spun and shot well over. Paterson was back from a one match suspension but dragged a left foot shot wide after a surge forward.
The right back’s aim was more accurate after quarter of an hour. Sam Nicholson twice saw efforts blocked from the edge of the area, the the second falling nicely for Paterson who unleashed an unstoppable first time drive into the far corner.
Jamie Walker was back in the starting line-up, and almost marked his return with a goal, but Woods was down well to parry Walker’s curling strike. The winger came even closer five minutes before the before the break, exchanging a one-two with Paterson before seeing his dipping volley acrobatically tipped over by Woods.
Things then took a turn for the worse for the hosts when Augustyn was shown a straight red after just two minutes. Liam Boyce pounced on a Rossi mistake, and was only halted from a run in on goal when the Hearts captain bundled him over, forcing Alan Muir to reach straight for the red card.
That should have forced Hearts onto the back foot, who instead increased their lead when Osman Sow forced home a second on 67 minutes. He was released down the left by Rossi before helping it on to Walker. He in turn picked out Sow in the middle, and after a poor first touch, the Swede capitalised on Woods’ inability to gather and forced it home.
County sub Mark Curran then contrived to produce a miss of the season contender when he hit the outside of the post from two yards following Walker’s sliced clearance. That aside, the ten-men comfortably saw out a sixth win of the season.
SCORERS: Hearts - Paterson (15′), Sow (67′)
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, McGhee, Buaben, Djoum, Walker (Pallardo 86), Nicholson (Gomis 75), Juanma (Smith 52), Sow
Ross County: G Woods, Fraser, Reckford (Franks 45), Robertson, Gardyne, Graham (62 Curran), Boyce, Foster, Davies, Murdoch (M Woods 52), Irvine