Whilst many seemed underwhelmed by Hearts’ performance, and subsequent victory, at Ayr United’s Somerset Park on a wild, wet and windy Friday night… to this viewer it came across as the first sighting of something all too rare for the Tynecastle club, and something essential for any team that wants to claim a league title, winning ugly.
You could, quite reasonably, challenge the best teams in the country to pull out a five-star performance in the conditions Robbie Neilson’s men found themselves playing in, and ultimately the overall objective on the night – grinding out three points – was achieved with a degree of comfort.
With twelve games to play and a twelve-point gap at the summit, it seems unthinkable that anyone other than the Gorgie outfit will secure the title, and with it, automatic promotion back to the Premiership.
Jamie Walker – one of the standout performers in recent weeks – said it himself after the game: “We’re the biggest team in this league, we don’t deserve to be in the championship, and we will win it.”
I don’t think you’ll find any one of a maroon persuasion disagreeing with him – but it’s fair to say that this season hasn’t been without its bumps along the way…
Respective 2-1 and 3-1 defeats at the hands of Dunfermline and Dundee were concerning, if not entirely unexpected. But the more recent 3-2 home capitulation against Raith Rovers – a team who hadn’t been able to train for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak – set alarm bells off amongst the Gorgie faithful.
Add in a season-ending injury to Josh Ginnelly, the unexpected departure of Olly Lee and some erratic performances in the back line, most notably by Christophe Berra, and some fans were starting to suggest whether a title chase that felt like a foregone conclusion, might not be quite as comfortable as we’d all hoped…
Neilson’s men bounced back in style though. A triumphant 4-0 thumping of Raith at Starks Park allayed any immediate fears. And that victory was quickly complemented by some impressive business in the transfer market. Add to that, a win over promotion hopefuls Dunfermline and it didn’t take long for all to feel well again at Tynecastle.
And with this weekend’s rather uninspiring win at Ayr still fresh in the memory, it looks like Hearts might have found the missing piece of the puzzle in their quest for the title…
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