Hearts find way to win on emotional day at Tynecastle with Drew Busby tifo

Playing catch-up when it comes to competitive action, Hearts were denied the luxury of easing themselves into the new season by a Ross County side that looks capable of punching well above its weight.

But, having weathered the first half onslaught, the Tynecastle side found a way to come out on top after the interval, with goals from Alan Forrest and Barrie McKay sealing a 2-1 win.

On a day when the club and fans paid respects to legend Drew Busby, with a well-coordinated tifo, the players ultimately honoured the man who always gave his all for the cause, by finding a way to shrug off their suspect start and take all three points to get the new season off to a positive start.

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The fans’ display was better orchestrated than the defensive display in a first half that probably owed a lot to the fact that County had a few more competitive matches under their belts thanks to the Premier Sports Cup. And, the Highland side, which has been rebuilt again over the summer, were unfortunate not to take a decent lead into half-time.

The Hearts fan display for Drew Busby at Tynecastle on Saturday.

Sharper, they were first to so many balls, reading play and anticipating, whereas Hearts were on the back heel and slow to react.

Owura Edwards preyed on Hearts’ deficiencies on the right of defence, running Nathaniel Atkinson and Toby Sibbick ragged. If the Aussie hadn’t been feeling ill beforehand – he was hooked after 28 minutes apparently suffering the after effects – he would have been after a torrid introduction to the new season.

On loan from Bristol City, the energetic and direct 21-year-old County winger was a constant nuisance and his 22nd minute cross picked out Dominic Samuel, whose header was denied by the post.

A few minutes later it was Edwards who came close but having left Atkinson dizzy as he went beyond him, he was foiled as his floated-in shot came back off the bar.

Alan Forrest celebrates after putting Hearts 1-0 up against Ross County.

For Hearts, this was a tough opening day test but looking for positives, it is one they will be able to draw on when the slog of competing in European and domestic competition takes its toll. It showed that even when faced with quality, well-organised and driven opponents, they were able to move up a gear and deliver on the need for three points as they look to produce back to back top three finishes in the Premiership.

The opener came from Forrest – one of four players making their competitive debuts – in the 59th minute, turning a drilled Alex Cochrane cross into the County net, and McKay added the second in the 77th minute, brilliantly bringing down a Cochrane long ball, taking out two defenders with his first touch and showing composure to evade another before slotting home.

That released some of the tension that had been building up inside a rammed Tynecastle.

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But they did not escape a nervy conclusion after Ross County substitute made the most of a ball over the top that eluded Kye Rowles and while Craig Gordon tried to make himself big, the striker was able to stroke his effort under the keeper and wrestle some momentum back for the visitors.

Hearts' Barrie McKay (L) celebrates making it 2-0 with Alan Forrest during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Ross County at Tynecastle Park, on July 30, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

But Hearts had learned their lesson and, with a lead to cling to, they made sure to battle for everything and prevent a late slip-up.