Hearts trounce Queen of the South to fire Scottish Cup warning to Celtic

As preparations for the Scottish Cup final go, this was an excellent afternoon for Hearts ahead of next weekend’s clash with Celtic.

Steven Naismith celebrates in front of the cardboard fans after opening the scoring.
Steven Naismith celebrates in front of the cardboard fans after opening the scoring.

Robbie Neilson’s men chalked up a comprehensive 6-1 win over Queen of the South to move further ahead of the chasing pack in the Championship

There were two goals for main striker Liam Boyce, a cracker from Steven Naismith, Jamie Walker netted his third goal in two matches, Elliot Frear got in on the act and winger Josh Ginnelly scored on his return after a couple of months out injured.

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Moreover, Dunfermline’s surprise defeat by Morton, the visitors prevailing 2-1 in Fife, means the Jambos are four points clear at the summit.

After a little blip with defeats to the Pars and Alloa, Robbie Neilson’s men are back to their best. They attacked Queens from the off, intent on putting their visitors under heavy pressure.

Touch of class

Often matches in the Championship need some sorcery to open them up and while the Doonhamers resisted Hearts manfully in the opening stages, they were undone by a moment of magic from Naismith on 20 minutes, a lovely volley that belonged in much more decorated company.

Neilson takes his team to Hampden a week on Sunday for the Scottish Cup final and has some welcomed selection headaches. Both Peter Haring and Andy Halliday were left on the bench at Tynecastle. Olly Lee, in particular, excelled in midfield. He laid on two assists and was a constant threat, finding pockets of space and linking up well with the forwards.

Boyce will have been pleased to get two goals. Strikers often judge themselves on that particular currency and Hearts will need the Northern Irishman on top form against Celtic. Even with the Glasgow club’s recent travails, they will not be as charitable as Queens. Boyce actually should’ve had a hat-trick, but skewed a shot wide in the dying embers of the match. It mattered little.

Story of the game

Naismith’s goal was all about the technique, the accuracy. Lee did well to head the ball towards the 34-year-old, who was stationed just outside the box. The Scotland internationalist let it bounce before arrowing a shot that flew into the net via the post. No keeper would have saved it.

Craig Gordon was called into action at the other end to turn a long-range Willie Gibson effort over the bar. However, on the stroke of half time, Boyce rose powerfully and headed in a Lee cross for 2-0.

The second half wasn’t even a minute old when Aidy White’s cross-shot was converted at the back post by Boyce.

Queens, to their credit, did not give up and scored a consolation on 73 minutes, Ayo Obileye slotting home.

It was a mere blot on the Jambos’ copybook, though, as three minutes later Walker drilled the ball beyond Jack Leighfield and then Frear scored his first goal for the club.

Ginnelly, on as a 61st-minute sub, battered a strike beyond a now weary Queens keeper in stoppage time to make it six.

With league business complete, Hearts’ thoughts now turn to Hampden.

Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Halkett, Berra, Kingsley, Lee (Ginnelly 61), Irving, Walker, Naismith (Halliday 74), White (Frear 61), Boyce.

Queen of the South: Leighfield, Nortey, Buchanan, Obileye, Maxwell, Fitzpatrick (East 62), McCabe (McGrory 78), Pybus, Gibson, Shields, Dobbie (McKechnie 65).

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