High-tempo Hearts impress with Jamie Walker playing in the hole
It does not look like it will be an issue for Hearts to produce a high tempo, pressing game this season, but in the unfamiliar emptiness of Tynecastle, in particular, it may be more difficult maintaining that intensity throughout matches without the roar of the crowd.
Especially in games like this one, where they take the lead and a firm grip on proceedings early in proceedings.
It is something manager Robbie Neilson wants his men to guard against, urging them on from the sidelines as they showed their ability to overwhelm but also their capacity to take the foot off the gas and give into the temptation to coast towards the final whistle.
During Scottish football’s summer of woe, Hearts had joined forces with Partick Thistle in a bid to address the injustices associated with the premature curtailment of the season and the demotion of both sides with fixtures outstanding.
But that kinship was parked at Tynecastle as both tackled a friendly designed to galvanise them for the upcoming season and their respective bids to secure promotion at the first attempt.
On this evidence, those are realistic ambitions for both clubs, as Ian McCall’s men looked unfazed by the might of Championship outfit Hearts and showed more than enough quality, effort and organisation to suggest they can challenge at the top of their division.
Blessed with power and pace, the home side have players who look like they will shine in Scotland’s second tier and, while there was a dip in tempo and a few moments of slackness, they set the scene for another fairly comfortable win when Jamie Walker, playing in the pocket just behind Craig Wighton, who occupied the central striking berth, opened the scoring with just eight minutes gone.
The wing play is likely to be a hallmark of Hearts’ style this season and Jamie Brandon and Elliott Frear combined down the right, with the latter dummying a pass which the fullback ran onto and from the byeline, he cut the ball back for Walker to drill into the net.
There were further examples of exciting and explosive link ups around the pitch and although there is still improvement to come, the industry of Frear and the craft of Walker were evident throughout the first half.
Both were withdrawn at the interval, but there was little respite for Thistle who were left with Steven Naismith and Jordan Roberts to contend with instead.
A worthy run out, there were efforts at both ends but they were soft or too close to the keepers, although Wighton will be cursing Thistle’s James Sneddon whose legs denied him on a couple of occasions as the striker ran through on goal.
At the other end, Craig Gordon did need to block a decent Brian Graham effort but Hearts tied up the win with a second goal after an hour.
Craig Halkett burst forward from defence to rob Partick of possession in the middle of the pitch. He evaded several Thistle bodies before slipping a pass through to Naismith who rounded Sneddon and, rather than try to score from a tight angle, showed awareness and selflessness to square the ball for Halkett, who had continued his run and buried his shot from close range.
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