Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 27 March 2010 - Tynecastle
After last week's impressive display against Hibernian, Hearts brought their fans crashing down to earth with a bump with this display against Scotland's champions elect. I suspect manager Jim Jefferies had spoken to his players about the importance of keeping things tight early on and not letting Rangers grab the initiative. When a totally unmarked Danny Wilson headed Rangers in front after just four minutes, the Hearts boss must have felt like banging his head off the roof of the dugout.
Hearts did fight back and their tenacity was rewarded after sixteen minutes when Suso Santana volleyed in a tremendous effort from inside the penalty box which gave Gers keeper McGregor no chance. However, Rangers always looked threatening when going forward - admittedly this wasn't difficult against a Hearts defence that appeared as if they had been introduced to other in the pre-match warm up. Rangers went ahead again after half an hour when Naismith's effort cannoned off the crossbar and fell kindly to Kenny Miller who dived to head home. Hearts had keeper Jamie McDonald to thank for a brilliant save from Davis to keep Hearts in the game.
Rangers began the second half the same way they began the first when Whittaker set up Naismith to clip the ball beyond McDonald just four minutes after the re-start. Hearts best move the game followed but when David Obua had the choice of which side of the goal to nod the ball past keeper McGregor he opted to head it straight at him. When Zaliukas' header was brilliantly palmed away by McGregor moments after, Hearts chances of taking anything from the game disappeared.
With thirteen minutes left, Rangers ended the scoring when a Davis free kick was met by the head of totally unmarked Naismith who had the freedom of Gorgie Road with which to head home. Which is precisely what the majority of the disgruntled home support immediately did.
Strangely enough, I've seen Hearts perform much worse this season and still not lose. The midfield was okay and up front Obua and Glen posed problems for the Rangers rearguard. But Hearts defending was quite shocking - they gifted four goals to the visitors who surely didn't expect such an easy ride at Tynecastle.
The only saving grace was that St. Johnstone lost at Hamilton and thus the five point gap remains between Hearts and Saints for that sixth spot in the SPL come the split. If Hearts win their next two games they will be assured of sixth place - but Jim Jefferies will need to sort out the defence if this is to become a reality.