A game that had all the potential to be a thrilling end to the Betfred Cup group stages turned it to be a whitewash. As Premiership outfit romped to a 5-0 destruction of sub-par Inverness.
The game was always destined to be controversial following Hearts’ 2 point deduction for fielding an illegible player against Cove in an earlier tie. A punishment many felt wasn’t sufficient considering past repercussions for clubs who committed a similar fault. However the game went ahead with the the knowledge that anything less than a 3-0 win for Hearts would see both them and Inverness progress. 4 or more and Partick would sneak into the round of 16.
Inverness started lively with Jordan White and Joe Chalmers both having chances to put the underdogs ahead. Ultimately this would be costly as a 5 minute flurry of madness saw the score go from 0-0 to 3-0. New Hearts striker Ikpeazu opened the scoring, slack defending from Donaldson led to a corner, which was also defended loosely and left the tall striker to hammer home his second goal for the Jambos. Minutes later Donaldson again game away a set piece. This time for body-checking Steven Naismith off the ball around 20 yards out. Step up Garuccio to score a phenomenal free-kick which gave the home side an even bigger cushion.
The third goal was once again a result of abysmal defensive work, this time Joe Chalmers failing to pick up a loose ball amen instead standing off, resulting in the simplest of counter-attacks in the whole competition. With the hosts whipping in a driven cross for Ikpeazu to nod home his second of the game.
It was a game in which the score line represented how the game planned out. But the means of which the goals were scored, truly did not. Hearts were ruthless, but none of their goals were made purely off their effort. Poor, sloppy play from a handful of ICT players gifted all 5 goals, and when Hearts did make their own chances. Mark Ridgers was there to stop them. In the second half, Inverness failed to change their ways, with only Daniel Mackay making a positive difference off the bench. Their decision to take off their best performing players in Tom Walsh and Aaron Doran proved costly as nothing looked threatening after their departure. A Steven Naismith double made it 5 after he latched onto two separate crosses, both of which were created from Chalmers giving the ball away. Lafferty came on and should of made it six, but his effort struck the post and was eventually cleared by Mckay.
All in all, it was a shambolic display from a usually strong ICT side. And a ruthless display from a Hearts team which has the potential to be even better. Inverness need to start making use of players who have been performing well, and not those who are the “big names” in the squad. A few games on the bench for Chalmers, Austin and Rooney might benefit them. And would give the likes of Walsh, McCart and Mackay a chance show their potential. The signing of Sean Welsh will be vital for them going forward. As their midfield has been missing a defensive player to play alongside Trafford/Polworth. As for Hearts, well, if they can take more chances like they should’ve in this game. Then they have a real chance of pushing into the top 4, if not the top 3. Rangers, Hibs and Aberdeen will all have to have an eye out for the Jambos, as they could really surprise a few this year.
Man Of The Match: Steven Naismith