Hearts began their Scottish Premiership campaign with a challenging win over Ross County in a frantic contest.
The away side were the better team before the interval, but Alan Forrest’s goal on the hour wiped out all of County’s momentum.
Barrie McKay added a second for Robbie Neilson’s side thanks to a sensational first touch.
County made it a nervous final 10 minutes as Jordan White slotted past Craig Gordon, but Hearts held on.
While the stats may not suggest so, Ross County were by far the better side in the opening half with Owura Edwards’ cross finding Dominic Samuels, whose header smacked off the post. Moments later Edwards himself hit the woodwork with a looping shot.
Hearts had chances of their own before the interval with Lawrence Shankland going close from range before McKay failed to get a toe on a Michael Smith cross.
After the break Forrest went close twice for the home side before going one better and giving them the lead. Alex Cochrane fizzed in a low cross for Forrest to turn home from close range.
A simple long ball over the top began the move for Hearts’ second. McKay watched the ball drop over his shoulder and pulled the pass down with a delicious first touch to take two defenders out of the equation. The attacker then did his initial touch justice with his finish.
It was a nervy ending for the home side after White latched on to a lobbed pass to smash beyond Craig Gordon, who seemed to be caught in two minds when dealing with the shot.
Man of the match – Alan Forrest
Post-match takeaways – entertaining County offer promise
It’s not a stretch at all to say that Ross County had Hearts’ number in the first half.
The attacking quartet of Edwards, Samuels, Jordy Hiwula, and Josh Sims were buzzing around Hearts defenders relentlessly. Edwards in particular looks like he will be a big player for Mackay’s side this season.
Hearts’ defence was lacking Stephen Kingsley and with John Souttar now away to Rangers, their often-reliable back looked three quite ragged for large spells of the opening 45 minutes.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet as fellow summer signing Forrest managed, Shankland looked like a man with a point to prove in the Scottish Premiership.
What they said
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “I’m delighted to get three points in our first competitive game, especially as it was against a team that had four already.
“In that initial stage of the game I felt our intensity wasn’t there. We eventually got a foothold in it and started to take a bit of control and in the second half we were a bit more like ourselves.”
Ross County manager Malik Mackay: “It was not the result we were looking for but the performance certainly was what we were looking for. First half we were terrific, really took the game to them.
“We had wonderful chances and I was disappointed we didn’t come in two goals up at half time. We got back into it again against a good team and overall I’m very proud. I said to them in there if you keep playing like that we’ll be okay.”
Hearts face Hibs in the Edinburgh derby next Sunday 7 August (12:00 BST), while Ross County host Celtic at (15:00) on Saturday 6 August.
Heart of Midlothian
- 12AtkinsonSubstituted forGrantat 28′minutesBooked at 80mins
- 17ForrestSubstituted forDevlinat 78′minutes
- 9ShanklandSubstituted forBoyceat 71′minutes
- 18McKaySubstituted forHallidayat 78′minutes
- 2RandallSubstituted forJohnsonat 81′minutes
- 5BaldwinBooked at 52mins
- 3PurringtonBooked at 67mins
- 11SimsSubstituted forDhandaat 64′minutes
- 9SamuelSubstituted forWhiteat 76′minutes
- 7EdwardsSubstituted forOlaigbeat 64′minutes
- David Dickinson
Match ends, Heart of Midlothian 2, Ross County 1.
Second Half ends, Heart of Midlothian 2, Ross County 1.
Jorge Grant (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jordan Tillson (Ross County).
Foul by Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian).
Alex Iacovitti (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Jorge Grant (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Andrew Halliday.
Attempt blocked. Jorge Grant (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Cameron Devlin.
Andrew Halliday (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Callum Johnson (Ross County).
Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jack Baldwin (Ross County).
Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Alex Iacovitti (Ross County).
Attempt missed. Jack Baldwin (Ross County) header from the center of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Kazeem Olaigbe with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Alex Cochrane.
Substitution, Ross County. Callum Johnson replaces Connor Randall.
Jorge Grant (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Jorge Grant (Heart of Midlothian).
Connor Randall (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.