WITH international superstar Beyonce playing at nearby Murrayfield in the evening, there were fans of various hues moving in different directions around Tynecastle before and after the match. Hearts and Aberdeen, meanwhile, were battling it out to secure their own European tour next season.

A gutsy comeback victory secured through goals from Josh Ginnelly, whose sensational strike cancelled out Matty Pollock’s opener for the visitors, and a second-half winner from skipper Lawrence Shankland kept the race for third alive.

Here are five things we learned as Hearts closed the gap to the Dons to two points going into the final week of the campaign.


There are many parallels to draw between Aberdeen and Hearts this season: strong starts to their respective campaigns appearing to hit the skids following the World Cup break, with novice managers replacing Jim Goodwin and Robbie Neilson respectively.

Barry Robson’s start to life in the dugout was so impressive he was offered the gig on a permanent basis. Neilson’s replacement, Steven Naismith, however, has perhaps not had quite the rapid rise as his former Scotland team-mate in the Gorgie dugout.

With so much riding on this match, not least a guaranteed £5m bounty of group stage football, it was natural that both teams started in a cagey fashion. The decision to stick with Peter Haring – who had his farcical red card against St Mirren overturned in midweek – and Cammy Devlin as two deep-lying midfielders was a marker of the caution with which Naismith was treading into this meeting.

For Aberdeen, the loss of the injured Duk, who was not named on the bench, saw strike partner Bojan Miovski tasked with leading the line against Hearts’ central defensive pairing of Toby Sibbick and Kye Rowles. When the Macedonian lost an aerial duel against the diminutive Devlin in the centre of the park at one point, it was clear who would have the physical advantage in this encounter.

The visitors did get their noses in front, however, after half an hour when a Leighton Clarkson corner to the back post was missed by the onrushing Zander Clark’s fist, and Pollock popped up at the back post to nod home.


Robson has done a sterling job in reversing Aberdeen’s fortunes since taking the reins at their lowest ebb, and the loss of Duk coupled with the suspension for Shinnie left him with a weakened hand. But Hearts looked the more coherent outfit here as Naismith put his mark on a team that is quietly yet confidently rediscovering its mojo at the right stage of the season – and perhaps he was drawing on that “to the left” lyric of the American diva down the road at Murrayfield.

Gone is Neilson’s penchant for building from the back, and the direct style appears to be benefitting Ginnelly in particular. Having Haring and Devlin doing the bulk of the heavy lifting while looking to get the ball wide early sees the forward get on the ball regularly in advanced positions. When Tynecastle stood as half-time approached to honour a supporter who recently passed away, Ginnelly unleased a rocket from the left corner of the 18-yard box which flew into Kell Roos’s top-left corner.

And it was joy down the left-hand side which led to Shankland’s winner. Cochrane was released at the bye-line by Barry Mackay and his ball across goal was met by the Tynecastle captain who fired high into Kelle Roos’s net. After a short VAR check the home support were allowed to celebrate.


One was playing, the other was out injured. Shankland netted goal No.27 of the season with a poacher’s finish to round off a smart move by Hearts at the start of the second half. The prolific marksman showed there is far more to his game than merely getting on the end of things – but boy do Hearts rely on that canny ability when he uses it.

Miovski meanwhile, had a torrid afternoon. Without Duk to accompany him in attack, he looked shorn of confidence for a player who has netted an impressive 18 times during this campaign. When he got on the end of a loose ball after 77 minutes, the Macedonian looked to be clean through on goal, but inexplicably trundled to the ground under pressure from Knowles looking for a penalty. It was a bizarre decision from the striker, when it seemed he had the goal at his mercy.


Aberdeen scored their first goal since the split to take the lead through Mattie Pollock. But Hearts looked the likelier throughout. But Robson’s side remain two points ahead of their capital rivals in third place. With a trip to Celtic Park set to conclude their campaign, Wednesday night’s clash with St Mirren at Pittodrie feels like a must-win if the Dons are to garner enough momentum to get over the line in third place.


While the battle for third place intensifies, the question of how either side would fare on the continent remains open. Have Hearts progressed enough this term to build on their showing in the Conference League last year? Are Aberdeen in a position to do better? They may have two strikers who have scored an impressive 18 goals apiece in Duk and Miovski, but without the former they looked a blunt force against a well-organised side in Gorgie, and Robson’s plans on bringing in reinforcements may rest on their final league placing.

It was a game that started with a clash of two sides chasing third place and ended with a nasty clash of heads between Kye Rowles and Pollock deep into stoppage time. The Aberdeen goalscorer was thankfully back on his feet for Clancy’s final blast of the whistle, but it will be an absorbing contest to see who is left out in the cold in fourth place come the end of the season.