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Heart of Midlothian 4 Falkirk 1: Familiarity breeding content for championship pacesetters

Hearts fans could get used to this sort of thing.

James Keatings congratulates Billy King, rightPhotograph: SNS
James Keatings congratulates Billy King, rightPhotograph: SNS

In fact, Hearts fans are getting used to this sort of thing. For the second week in succession they watched their team bang in four goals, maintain their unbeaten league record and keep their clear lead at the top of the Championship. And the sun shone on Tynecastle as well.

That Hearts could not match their 4-0 hammering of Raith last weekend came down to the moment of inattention in their defence that allowed Falkirk's Botti Bia-Bi to sweep the ball home for the 85th-minute consolation goal that flattered the away team's overall efforts considerably. It also owed something to the clumsy challenge Prince Buaben inflicted on Falkirk's Olumide Durojaiye, an ugly foul that drew a swift, and deserved, red card.

Not that Falkirk were the angels of the affair. Referee Kevin Clancy saw fit to show his yellow card to six of their players, and he could have shown red, albeit a little harshly, to Will Vaulks after the centre-back had hauled down Osman Sow to set up the penalty that gave Hearts their fourth goal.

Hearts were already down to 10 men at that point. The sending-off had robbed them of the eager movement and mesmerising slickness they had shown earlier, but they still had more than Falkirk could cope with. Sam Nicholson had been beguiling on the left flank and Billy King almost as impressive on the right. Had James Keatings had a little more luck in front of goal the scoreline could have been horrendous for Falkirk.

It said everything about Hearts' control of the first half, and their opponents' almost non-existent threat in the same period, that the most anxious moment for the home fans came when Jack Hamilton momentarily took his eye off a pass back and allowed the ball to trickle towards his net. Falkirk won a couple of corners in that opening 45 minutes, but they generally left no footprints on their visits to Hearts' territory.

That was in stark contrast to what was happening at the other end. The three goals Hearts claimed in the first half could easily have been five or even six. They owned the midfield and Nicholson tortured Alan Maybury down the left side. When Maybury hauled his tormentor down to give Hearts their penalty in the 24th minute, the only wonder was that his patience had lasted that long.

Keatings did his best to butcher the opportunity, putting his first kick too close to Jamie MacDonald and then failing with the follow-up as well, but King got to the second rebound to clip the ball home. If it was possible to feel sorry for Falkirk at that moment, the sentiment hardly applied to the first or third goals, both of which owed much to calamitous defending. Before then, Jordan McGhee had given Hearts the lead with the opener after 17 minutes. It came from a King corner from the left, and as crisp as McGhee's contact was, the lack of a decent challenge from the defence infuriated Falkirk manager Peter Houston.

Hearts' third came just before the interval, a breakout effort that saw Nicholson race upfield, shift the ball on to Keatings, and King finish off with a lovely header.

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson conceded such a comfortable lead contributed to his side dropping off a little in the second half, but the scoreline and the league position should give him consolation enough.

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