30 Nov Muirhead at the double
Robbie Muirhead’s first goals for Hearts gave them a convincing 2-0 home win over Rangers and allowed the hosts to leapfrog the Ibrox side into second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
In what was expected to be head coach Robbie Neilson’s last game in charge before joining English League One side MK Dons, the 20-year-old forward notched for the first time since signing in the summer just a minute before the break with a drive.
The former Dundee United player added a second with a tap-in on the hour mark as the Gorgie side, for the most part, controlled the second half.
Rangers needed stoppage-time goals in their last two games against Partick Thistle and Dundee to give them victory but this time there was no way back. They finished well beaten and facing another inquest after another uninspiring performance, notwithstanding plenty of effort, while the home fans chanted for their boss in the closing stages as they cruised to victory.
The build-up to the game was dominated by Neilson’s possible departure but it did not go unnoticed that Rangers boss Mark Warburton offered a stout defence of his most expensive and much-criticised summer signing, Joe Garner.
However, the former Preston striker was dropped to the bench, replaced by Joe Dodoo who came on for him at Firhill on Saturday before scoring both goals in the 2-1 win.
Midfielder Matt Crooks made his first start for Rangers since joining the club in the summer from Accrington Stanley – his first at all since March 12 – after recovering from an ankle injury, with Josh Windass out with a hamstring complaint, and Hearts were unchanged.
Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence in tribute to the Chapecoense football side’s aeroplane tragedy with both sides wearing black armbands.
Hearts piled forward from the kick-off, pressing and harassing the Light Blues’ rearguard.
Jambos duo Muirhead and Jamie Walker squandered early free-kicks from around the 25-yard mark before Rangers right-back James Tavernier cleared the bar in the 14th minute with a drive from the same distance.
In a typically frantic tussle between these two sides it was the Edinburgh outfit who finished the first half strongly.
In the 36th minute Rangers keeper Wes Foderingham parried a Callum Paterson drive from 25 yards before he made two fine saves, both from headers by striker Bjorn Johnsen. Thus, there was no surprise when the home forged ahead.
Rangers appeared to have repelled another maroon attack but when Johnsen curled a pass to the back post Muirhead steered the ball past Foderingham.
The onus was on the Glasgow club to react after the break but it was Hearts, imbued with confidence, who looked most likely to get the next goal.
Dodoo did get the ball into the Hearts net in the 52nd minute after Jack Hamilton had parried a Kenny Miller but an offside flag for Forrester who was in the line of the keeper ruined celebrations.
Foderingham was soon in action again at the other end, parrying a Johnsen drive. But the second was not long in arriving, Muirhead arriving at the back post this time to knock a Walker cross into the net, and Rangers were reeling.
Johnsen drew yet another save from Foderingham with a low drive before Garner and Barrie McKay replaced Dodoo and the anonymous Crooks.
The Ibrox side tried to rally but there was a shout for a Hearts penalty when Rangers substitute Michael O’Halloran, on for Forrester, tangled with defender Faycal Rherras.
However, referee Craig Thomson ignored the pleas and after Rherras cleared a Garner header off the line in the final minute, the sound of the final whistle delighted the Tynecastle fans and distressed those in Light Blue.