Story of Hearts 2-1 Inverness CT: Boyce's exquisite flick secures seventh straight win for Jambos
Patience paid dividends for Hearts as they maintained a 100 per cent record in all competitions with victory over Inverness at Tynecastle Park.
Expertly-taken goals from Steven Naismith and Liam Boyce in the second half earned three Scottish Championship points despite Aaron Doran’s late header for the spirited Highlanders.
Their first-half tenacity threatened to cause an upset as it stopped Hearts linking play and creating chances. Those in maroon dominated possession and found more space after the interval.
Naismith’s first-time finish and Boyce’s back-heeled flick proved sufficient for a seventh successive win since the 2020-21 season began. It also maintained a buoyant atmosphere in the Hearts camp following last week’s Scottish Cup semi-final success against rivals Hibs.
Remembering the fallen
A pre-match minute’s silence took place at Tynecastle after the passing of former Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas, and also to mark Remembrance weekend.
Inverness lost 1-0 at this venue in the Betfred Cup a month ago and again fielded a young side under instruction to attack from manager John Robertson.
They carried out his wishes to the letter, pressing their hosts aggressively in all areas and denying anyone in maroon time on the ball. They also displayed plenty energy in possession and frequently sent runners beyond the home defence.
One of them was often Kai Kennedy, the 18-year-old winger on loan from Rangers. His trickery and confidence tested Hearts’ Northern Ireland international right-back Michael Smith on a few occasions.
The home players needed to be patient, unable to find a passing rhythm. They found space out wide for crosses, although takers were few and far between in the first half.
Smith came close to opening the scoring with a left-footed chip from an acute angle inside the Inverness penalty area. Too often, though, Hearts’ attacks were halted by timely challenges from visiting defenders Brad McKay and Robbie Deas.
One minute into the second half, the complexion of this game changed when a cross was finally converted. Full-back Stephen Kingsley found space on the left to collect the ball from Boyce and supply a swirling delivery.
Naismith was in place for a hooked finish with his left foot from around ten yards out. That settled any nerves which might have been building within the home camp.
Peter Haring, making his first league start for Hearts since April 2019, was replaced by Andy Irving as Hearts sought to keep possession of the ball better.
Inverness were probing in search of an equaliser but in doing so they left gaps and wound up conceding a second. From Hearts’ perspective, it was an exquisite strike to make sure of the win.
Naismith’s ball found Olly Lee for a cutback which was almost behind Boyce. The striker showed his quality by flicking the ball into the net with his back foot.
Hearts substitute Aidy White struck the crossbar moments later before the closing stages became slightly more interesting.
Inverness halved the deficit when Doran glanced a cross into the far corner of the net on 86 minutes, but Hearts held out until the final whistle.
Hearts (4-1-3-2): Gordon; M Smith, Halkett, Popescu, Kingsley; Haring (Irving 61); Lee, Halliday, Naismith (White 72); Wighton, Boyce (Frear 84).
Inverness (4-2-3-1): Ridgers; Duffy, McKay, Deas, Harper; Welsh, Allardice; D Mackay (Keatings 75), MacGregor (Sutherland 68), Kennedy (Doran 75); Todorov.