Hearts' headache hurts even more

Hearts defender Aaron Hughes had acknowledged that winning this game would not make amends for the midweek cup exit but, he said, it could act as the first step on the road to redemption.

Ian Cathro cuts a dejected figure at full time. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Ian Cathro cuts a dejected figure at full time. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

In the end it only served to make matters worse as Partick carved out their first home win against the Tynecastle side since 2004.

If there was an absence of fight on Wednesday night, there was a bit more grit on display yesterday but it manifested itself in a petulant display of needless fouls, fruitless running and endless frustration as the under-pressure Hearts team were left chasing shadows against a team that looked more organised, more mobile and worked as a team, in defence and attack.

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Kris Doolan led the line and, having opened the scoring in the fifth minute, his 98th goal for Partick Thistle, the wily striker could have added another two to reach his century before the match had even reached half-time. Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton denied him on both occasions. But, even with just the single-goal lead, the home side never really looked troubled and they shackled their guests with ease.

Partick’s job was made easier by the late call off of Northern Ireland international centre-back Hughes, who pulled out of the starting line-up with a tight calf, resulting in Lennard Sowah stepping inside and Faycal Rherras being reinstated at left-back. It was a switch that was to prove detrimental, with the former unconvincing in the heart of the rearguard. Time and an extra touch were luxuries he obviously craved but, in such pivotal areas, they were never going to be bestowed on him by opponents who pressed and chased down every ball.

It was Sowah’s errant header in the fifth minute, putting the ball back into the area rather than clearing his lines, that allowed Liam Lindsay to nod the ball down a yard or so from goal, for Doolan to pounce and net the opener.

Doolan had other chances but one produced a diving save and the other saw Hamilton rush out to halt the frontman’s run in on goal and save with his legs.

In was the perfect start for Thistle, whose endeavour in the opening period earned them that bit extra breathing space, and they went on to make the most of it, picking up three valuable points to edge themselves a few points further clear of the relegation and play-off spots and take their unbeaten run to three games.

Hearts huffed and puffed through the 90 minutes, managing just one trundling shot on goal in the whole game, that coming from Sam Nicholson, who had come on as substitute after Jamie Walker went off suffering the after effects of a powerful ball to the face. Ian Cathro’s side have now managed to win just three in ten league games since Robbie Neilson’s departure.

Cathro, pictured, dropped captain Perry Kitchen and midfielder Malaury Martin after the cup debacle but they still never looked like overcoming a Thistle side still stuck in the bottom six. The second goal was conceded in the 72nd minute and it came after Abdul Osman refused to let the ball run out for a corner, choosing to keep it in and deliver a ball deep into the box. Lindsay pulled it out of the air and lashed a lovely finish beyond Hamilton.

By that stage Hearts were down to ten men after Isma Goncalves personified the team’s penchant for self-harming, flying in for a challenge on Christie Elliott after he had already been booked for stupidly mouthing off at the referee.

Cathro said he would deal with the striker privately but he will be unhappy that he now has another problem to deal with when so many appear to be piling up.

It is less than a month since his players quashed Rangers and then added a victory over Motherwell to suggest that they were well capable of chasing down third place.

“Do I want the fans to be patient? No,” said Cathro. “I want them to come and expect us to be perfect from the start of the game. That’s what makes playing for this club a little more difficult than others. It matters so much and the fans are powerful. I want them to make it difficult for us, make it a challenge, make there be pressure.” That’s something he can be assured of.