Hearts had their substitutes to thank for picking up three points against Ross County in Dingwall, with two of them combining for the only goal of the game.
Alex Lowry, fresh off the back of a late winner midweek, turned provider for Alan Forrest to score the decisive goal in a 1-0 cinch Premiership victory on Saturday.
Given that the previous meeting between the two teams ended with seven goals, fans from both sides could have been forgiven for expecting a more entertaining affair than they were treated to in the first half.
The Jambos had made two changes, with Aidan Denholm and Odel Offiah replacing Cammy Devlin and Forrest in the starting line-up, while Malky Mackay brought Ben Purrington, Kyle Turner, Alex Samuel and Jordan White into his XI from Wednesday night’s League Cup defeat to Aberdeen.
Keeping in with the theme of Hearts’ domestic matches so far this season, they had plenty of possession, but really struggled to test Ross Laidlaw in the home goal.
Lawrence Shankland did come close towards the end of the first half, twisting and turning in a bid to forge a shooting opportunity and then only just sending the ball wide, but otherwise the most eye-catching man on the park was the referee, who booked three players in the first 45 minutes.
The second half threatened to pick up where the first left off, with Tony Sibbick and Offiah each having shots that reached the back of the stand after flying over the crossbar.
Hearts continued to probe for an opening goal, though and came close to one when substitute Forrest slid in to connect with Stephen Kingsley’s low cross – only for the ball to spin wide of the mark.
Just as County looked like they were growing into the game, the visitors finally took the lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Forrest again was the dangerman, expertly placing his header into the corner of the net from Alex Lowry’s cross, leaving Laidlaw rooted to the spot.
While Ross County did try to push for an equaliser, it was Laidlaw who was called into action again as the clock ticked down, needing to push a shot wide from Lowry that looked like it was destined for the bottom corner.
The Staggies could not find a way through to a leveller, consigning them to their third-consecutive defeat in all competitions and – following results elsewhere – dropped to 11th in the table, while Hearts moved up to fourth.
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