Just as it was foolhardy to judge Ian Cathro after three winless outings, it would be churlish to hail a brave new dawn after one victory. However, the Hearts head coach can be thoroughly satisfied with his first victory in the job following a display of pace, power and clinical finishing.
Granted, Kilmarnock were dreadful and Kris Boyd offered little in attack other than playing the role of pantomime villain to perfection, but the hosts were rampant at times and did not look back following Callum Paterson’s early opener.
Arnaud Djoum doubled their lead before the break and a brace from Jamie Walker – taking his tally to the season to ten – gave the scoreline a suitably handsome hue.
Krystian Nowak also struck the post and Dario Zanatta saw a late penalty saved by Jamie MacDonald. Cathro’s maiden win could easily have been by seven or eight. Indeed, the only downside to a much-needed evening of positivity came with Paterson leaving the field on a stretcher after sustaining a knee injury and Prince Buaben also limping off.
One of the most intriguing questions was answered an hour before kick-off when it was confirmed that Boyd would indeed be leading the line for the visitors – a fact that was not lost on the majority of the Tynecastle crowd when his name was later announced.
Boyd’s work as an outspoken columnist has generated more headlines than his playing exploits this season, making waves with his suggestion that Cathro knew “absolutely nothing” about man management and would find his first top gig an almighty challenge.
And Lee Clark afforded him the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is, and heap more misery on Cathro, by handing the former Rangers and Scotland striker – with one goal this term – his first start since 5 November; charging him with silencing a baying home support.
Hearts, meanwhile, made one change to the side that slipped to a 3-2 defeat at Dundee, with Faycal Rherras the man to come in for Liam Smith.
Prior to this encounter, Cathro had expressed a desire to “take the roof” off Tynecastle with a welcome victory over their visitors from the west. But it was Kilmarnock who were first to threaten and, as fate would have it, Boyd who spurned a passable chance.
Hearts’ attempts to deal with a low Nathan Tyson cross were woeful and the ball broke to the forward inside the box, but he could not sort his feet out quickly enough and he was foiled by the onrushing Jack Hamilton.
Killie were swiftly made to pay for that, with Paterson netting his eighth goal of the season with eight minutes on the clock. Attempts to clear a Walker corner kick only saw the ball nudged as far as the full-back, and his left-foot volley from 18 yards was unerring.
It would be Paterson’s last meaningful contribution to the contest, as a heavy challenge with Tyson saw him taken from the field on a stretcher to be replaced by Smith.
Early suggestions were that Paterson has suffered a knee injury and will undergo a scan later this week to ascertain the severity. But visibly devastated and covering his face with his jersey, the sight was a major cloud on a night of silver linings, given his immense importance to Hearts.
The vitriol from the terraces was not solely at Mr Boyd, with vociferous chants of “We want Johnston out” aimed at owner Michael Johnston from Killie fans. A banner accusing him of “Killing Our Club” was prominent.
On the pitch, Hearts almost doubled their lead on 25 minutes when Bjorn Johnsen met another superb Walker corner at the near post, only for his diving header to be cleared off the line by Martin Smith.
Hearts, however, would get their second just before the break when Liam Smith curled an inviting delivery into the box, allowing Djoum to stretch and prod a neat finish beyond MacDonald.
Any doubt about the destination of the three points was removed just after the interval when MacDonald spilled a Buaben drive, allowing Walker to slot home the rebound.
Perhaps the most raucous cheer of the night was reserved for the departure of Boyd, replaced by Dean Hawkshaw to a cacophony of ironic cheers.
Walker made it four when he latched onto a woefully short William Boyle back-pass and calmly slipped a low shot past MacDonald. Nowak then struck the post as Hearts turned the screw.
The last action of the night saw substitute Zanatta step up to take a penalty kick following a foul by Gary Dicker. MacDonald, however, saved the Canadian’s effort, in a moment that was the very definition of scant consolation.