Hearts 3-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Hearts wrapped up their home league campaign with an entertaining demolition of Inverness in the Gorgie sun.
January recruit Gary Mackay-Steven was the star of the show, finally showing some of his undoubted quality with a fine brace and all-round impressive attacking performance.
Pre-match the focus was on whether Hearts captain Steven Naismith would lift the Championship trophy after a fan-led campaign urging the players to leave the gong on the stand in protest at the SPFL’s treatment of Hearts last summer gained momentum.
After a Hearts statement on Friday indicating Naismith would lift the trophy with “no fanfare” and “no party”, the captain did just that after each player collected their winners medal.
Whilst this is simply a season everyone connected with Hearts, for a variety of reasons, will want to forget, Robbie Neilson’s players showed in the first half the potential levels they can hit when they make their return to the Premiership next term.
Against Neil McCann’s Inverness, who were battling for a play-off berth, they roared out of the blocks to hit two past former Jambo Mark Ridgers in the away goal. Despite an early warning, when Inverness proceeded to blast a well worked corner move over the bar after only two minutes, Mackay-Steven tidily finished four minutes later after dancing inside off the right with some fine footwork and skill.
Hearts made it two on nine minutes when Aaron McEneff grabbed his second of the campaign after GMS cleverly fed Liam Boyce who’s neat footwork setup McEneff for a deflected finish into the bottom corner.
Whilst two to the good, the home side’s backline still looked brittle at times with the Highlanders managing to apply decent pressure and penetration albeit without really creating anything of real note.
GMS bagged his second goal on the half hour mark when his pressure saw a defensive mix-up that allowed him to tap into an empty net. The general display by the winger will give hope that the excitement around his arrival wasn’t misplaced, despite a number of underwhelming performances so far.
One downside for the champions was the first half injury suffered by Peter Haring who had been commanding the centre of the pitch in a style reminiscent of his best form. He was replaced just before the break by the exiting Andy Irving.
Into the second half, it was the play-off chasing visitors who started the best as they sought to get back into the game. As time wore on their frustration began to show with interim boss Neil McCann being sent to the stand by referee Bobby Madden after verbally battling with former team mate Robbie Neilson following Sean Welsh’s meaty foul on Boyce.
Also of note was the appearance and competent showing of academy graduate Finlay Pollock who made his debut on 80 minutes replacing man-of-the-match GMS.
It was a result and performance that many Hearts fans will be hoping is the start of things to come as the club seeks to shakes off a bleak chapter in their history.