Boyce nets the winner again as Hearts rack up another three points

In an emotional afternoon at Tynecastle, Hearts were able to secure all three points against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with Liam Boyce netting the winner once again. Jamie Mcintosh reports.

It was an emotional atmosphere at Tynecastle this afternoon, as is so often the case when the club plays a home match around the time of Remembrance Sunday. However, during last Saturday’s match against Hibernian, news broke that the former Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas had passed away after battling motor neurone disease. 

Zaliukas captained a Hearts side that won the Scottish Cup in 2012, famously beating Hibs 5-1 in the final – for that alone he achieved legendary status. He also made over 200 appearances for the club during his seven years in Gorgie.  It goes without saying that all the team at ENRG Sport send our deepest sympathies to Marius’s family and friends during this difficult time. 

Prior to the match, a minute silence was observed in memory of both Marius Zaliukas and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Tributes poured in for the legendary Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas, with Hearts fans laying down flowers, shirts and scarves at the Tynecastle reception. Photo Credit – Jamie Mcintosh

Hearts made two changes from last week’s Hampden victory, with the influential pairing of Peter Haring and Steven Naismith replacing Jamie Walker and Jordan Roberts. 

As for the visitors, Inverness stuck with the same side who got the better of Arbroath last weekend, with Nikolay Todorov leading the line and looking to make it four goals in as many league games. 

Hearts were a little slow to get going and it was the visitors who looked more comfortable on the ball in the opening 10 minutes of the game. The first chance fell to Liam Boyce however, when Andy Halliday slid in Stephen Kingsley on the left. He squared it for Boyce, but the striker slipped at the vital moment and the ball was cleared.

Boyce had a golden chance just a minute later when Craig Halkett nodded an Olly Lee free kick back across goal, but the striker headed just wide at the back post. 

Inverness were looking for the ball in behind the Hearts defence, however a combination of Craig Gordon being quick off his line and a strong defensive line made it difficult for the visitors to have any success in the first half. Therefore, all the chances were falling for the hosts and Michael Smith nearly gave them the lead on the half hour mark when he curled his effort just wide of the far corner. Peter Haring had the final chance of the half, aimlessly lashing a volley wide from close range. 

Hearts got the breakthrough just a minute into the second half. Liam Boyce slipped the ball wide to the onrushing left back Stephen Kingsley. He crossed for Steven Naismith who placed his volley perfectly into the bottom corner. A deserved lead for the hosts and a first goal of the season for the skipper.

Inverness’ Kai Kennedy was having a bright game on the left wing and he almost took advantage of some sloppy defending from Mihai Popescu, but Michael Smith prevented the winger from getting a shot on goal. Wallace Duffy almost equalised for the visitors just after the hour mark, but Stephen Kingsley was in the right position to clear his goal-bound effort, which looked destined for the bottom corner. Inverness were having a good spell since that Hearts goal but still hadn’t really managed to test Craig Gordon in the Hearts goal.

Hearts doubled their lead with 20 minutes to play. Olly Lee got to the by-line and crossed for Liam Boyce who delicately back heeled the ball into the net. A lovely finish from the Northern Irishman – a goal which you’d have expected to have secured the three points for the Jambos. 

Aidy White almost made it 3-0 after good work down the left but a fantastic save from Mark Ridgers tipped his powerful effort on to the bar. 

Inverness pulled one back with five minutes to play, when Wallace Duffy’s cross was met by Aaron Doran, his glancing header nestling into the far corner. Inverness threw the kitchen sink at Hearts for the remaining minutes but just couldn’t carve out that clear cut chance for the equaliser. As such, it was relief for Robbie Neilson and Hearts when Bobby Madden sounded the full-time whistle. It was closer than it needed to be, and Hearts rather fell over the line in the end, but they make it seven straight wins and nine points out of nine in the league this season.

Liam Boyce scored the winning goal and is now able to look forward to an important week away with his country: 

“Buzzing for it obviously, but I just have to keep concentrating here, keep scoring goals and keep trying to get in the squad. It would be massive for us to qualify and hopefully I can try force my way into that squad by scoring goals here.” 

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was relieved to get 3 points in this match after the 120 minutes his players had to endure at Hampden last weekend:

“I was worried coming into this one after the highs of last weekend and all the energy we spent on Saturday and in the recovery days after it. I’m just delighted we managed to get 3 points and that’s us 3 out of 3 in the league, which is the main thing for us this season and that sets us up nicely for Tuesday.” 

Inverness have now come to Tynecastle twice this season and given a good account of themselves on both occasions, despite leaving empty handed. 

Manager John Robertson was impressed with what he saw however and again praised his young players:

“It’s frustrating in the end, the first half I thought we matched Hearts, I knew from the League Cup game that our young players could do that. Towards the end we made the changes and got the experienced guys on, we asked them to get the goal and they did and then Hearts were hanging on at the end.” 

Both teams are in League Cup action on Tuesday as Hearts travel to East Fife in their final group match, meanwhile Inverness travel to Raith.

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