HEARTS have hit more than their fair share of bum notes this season.
However, it was the rear end of Derek Adams, the Ross County manager, which struck a chord at Tynecastle in a surreal afternoon yesterday.
Just seconds after putting the home side ahead from the penalty spot on 65 minutes, Hearts captain Jamie Hamill collected the ball from the net and went on a celebratory parade down the byline in front of a packed main stand before tossing it away and taunting his Ross County opponents in the process.
His over-exuberance then led him along the touchline, where his forceful and brazen barge into Adams sent the off-guard coach sprawling backwards on to the track with his legs and arms flailing. The arm of Willie Collum, and the second yellow and red card atop of it, soon put an end to his merriment.
It could only take a moment of such ridiculousness to take any focus away from an afternoon which belonged to Hearts even before a ball had been kicked.
Following the news midweek that their future as a club appeared to have been secured thanks to an agreement between Ann Budge's BIDCO 1876 and Ukio Bankas for the sale of the Lithuanian bank's 29.5% share in Hearts, the procession which it triggered yesterday transferred from the jubilation in the stands to blood and thunder on the park.
Lit up by Hamill's penalty and a superb strike in the dying seconds from Dale Carrick, it was a win which put the tin lid on a historic week for the 140-year-old club. Around 13,500 Hearts fans came out to watch a team that had already been relegated, with only their ability to influence who potentially joins them in the SPFL Championship next season left to stir any interest. Yet their loyalty was to be rewarded with a well deserved three points, the latest of 10 from a possible 12 in their last four games.
"I was delighted for every one of my players," said Gary Locke, the Hearts manager, whose future under Budge's potential regime still looks uncertain. "We have grown as a team throughout the season. It's too little too late but it augurs well for the future."
After Ryan Stevenson had gone close twice in the first half, Locke's team eventually gained the upper hand from the penalty spot. Graham Carey's clumsy challenge brought Kevin McHattie down in the area, with Hamill stepping up to fire high beyond the diving Mark Brown. You know what happened next.
Matters were then to be rounded off in style with substitute Scott Robinson racing clear down the left on a breakaway in the dying seconds. His squared pass found Carrick in space just inside the box, allowing the youngster to shift the ball on to his right and rocket it high into the net before he celebrated by throwing himself on to the turf... much like Adams.
The Ross County manager has more than just himself to pick up and dust down, however. This defeat combined with results elsewhere sees his men drop to 11th with a win over Kilmarnock in Dingwall next weekend crucial if their two-year stint in the top flight is to be extended.
County went out with a whimper against a Hearts side with nothing but pride to play for. Largely ineffectual in attack in the first half, right-back Erik Cikos spurned their best chance at 1-0 down when his half-volley just inside the area from a Richard Brittain dinked pass was thrashed just over the bar.
"It's not been a good day for us," admitted Adams. "I thought Hearts were excellent in the second half, their energy and enthusiasm from the young kids has been remarkable throughout the season and today. We didn't match that."