Robbie Neilson’s Hearts now sit in a commanding position at the top of the Championship after edging Dunfermline in a competitive clash at Tynecastle Park with all the hallmarks of a league winning side.
Substitute Jamie Walker was the difference between the Jambos and the Pars, who had inflicted Hearts’ first defeat of the season, when he rifled home with ten minutes to go after a cracking turn off a Michael Smith pass.
Defensive lapses have been Hearts’ challenge this season and without a terrific Craig Gordon save just before the break they would have been a goal down after the big stopper turned away Ryan Dow’s goal-bound header.
However, the league leaders managed to keep a second consecutive clean sheet, following up Tuesday’s demolition of Raith Rovers, aided by a second half performance with more drive and determination.
Despite not hitting the lows of last weekend’s defeat by the Kirkcaldy men, Hearts didn’t display the same zip and pace in the first 45 minutes that has been a key characteristic of there’s at home so far this campaign. However, they looked well setup and went through the gears without creating any real meaningful opportunities.
In the second period, the addition of Aidy White and Jamie Walker made a big impact with the running and intent of the Irishman causing the Pars issues and upping Hearts’ attacking tempo. Jamie Walker’s performance was a strong one and will leave the Hearts support even more frustrated given the relatively infrequency in which he shows up in a maroon shirt. His goal was out of the top drawer in taking the ball menacingly from a decent through ball and coolly dispatching it past Fon Williams.
In other positives, Euan Henderson and Mihai Popescu also looked promising and dynamic in their contributions. With Christophe Berra back from injury, and on the bench, it looks like the centre back berth is for Popescu to lose now. Two-goal debutant Armand Gnanduillet made an appearance off the bench without looking too fearsome but notably was deployed alongside an industrious Liam Boyce which bodes well for Hearts’ ongoing attacking resolve.
With Dundee slipping up away at Raith Rovers, it is the Fifers who now emerge as Hearts’ biggest challengers with a 12 point chasm splitting the sides – albeit with John McGlynn’s men with two games in hand. Next up for Hearts is a visit to Ayr United live on BBC Scotland next Friday evening.