The visitors had loud claims for a penalty with just five minutes on the clock when Liam Boyce tangled with Corrie Ndaba. However, much to the bemusement of the men in maroon, experienced match referee Steven McLean waved play on.
With fifteen minutes gone, the game saw its first significant chance after a Hearts mix-up at the back from a Craig Gordon kick. A loose pass from the Scotland goalkeeper was intercepted by Tom Walsh, who pounced and squared the ball to Andre Wright who was waiting around the penalty spot, but he couldn’t get the ball out his feet quick enough.
The game lacked many clear-cut chances or openings during the remainder of the first half with the game predominately being played in the midfield, with any attack at either end being cancelled out.
The Jambos started the second half perfectly as Northern Ireland international Boyce converted a penalty high into the roof of the net to give Robbie Neilson’s side the lead. The decision to award the penalty was certainly a talking point as the ball sprung off the thigh and then the hand of Jack Baird from an Andy Halliday strike.
Ayr struggled to find their flow and look deflated for a ten-minute spell after going behind. Boyce had a couple more efforts go over the bar as well as requiring treatment after a tangle of legs with an Ayr defender. Hearts boss Neilson had already saw yellow in the first half for challenging referee decisions and this was another that frustrated the Hearts gaffer.
Mark Kerr’s men did push the Edinburgh side all the way to the final whistle, fighting for every ball. They huffed and puffed with lots of energy and even had a late penalty shout of their own, but it wasn’t to be as Hearts saw out the remainder of the match to secure all three points going back to the capital. Here are three things we learned
Hearts won’t care about winning ugly
Hearts didn’t control as much possession as they would’ve like, particularly in the first half with Ayr pressing high in their faces trying to force mistakes but they won’t care. Manager Neilson told the press post-match the reason this game was picked to be televised was because they were hoping it would be a game Hearts would slip up.
They ensured that no slip up would occur in the end. It was far from their fluid best, but they got the job done, and now that’s three wins on the bounce.
Result won’t define Honest Men’s season
Ayr United went into the game unbeaten at Somerset Park this season with four wins and four draws. Hearts have now ended that impressive home run but there was lots for Ayr fans to be optimistic about.
Manager Kerr will take encouragement that his side can replicate this type of performance on a consistent basis between now and the end of the season. If they can then there’s no reason why they won’t be in the all-important play off positions come the end of the season.
Ayr attackers shine despite drawing blank
The link up-play between Walsh, Luke McCowan and Cammy Smith in the attacking third worked really well and troubled Craig Halkett and Mihai Popescu in the Hearts defence all evening- forcing errors.
January recruit Wright led the line well again after an impressive debut against Alloa last Saturday, winning lots of headers, neat touches coming into the midfield to receive the ball and causing all sorts of chaos.
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