Hearts re-established themselves as runaway favourites for this season’s Championship with a resounding 4-0 victory at Starks Park, as Raith were pressed and harried out of their stride in the first half, and struggled to impose themselves in the second following the dismissal of midfielder Regan Hendry. First-half strikes from Liam Boyce and Euan Henderson, and two from impressive second-half substitute Armand Gnanduillet emphasised the clear difference in quality between the teams, as the disruption of recent weeks caught up with John McGlynn’s men.

With Hearts energetic and combative from the first whistle, Raith were unable to gain a foothold in the game until the match was over as a contest late in the second half. For Rovers, a period of recharging batteries and regaining match fitness is in order before the visit of Dundee on Saturday; for Hearts, a nine-point lead in the Championship table now surely means the League title is the Tynecastle side’s to lose. The only two bright spots on an otherwise miserable night for Raith were the returns to action of injury absentees Iain Davidson and Lewis Vaughan, the latter’s sixty minutes of huge value in the youngster’s return from his succession of serious injuries.

With the dust barely having settled following the thrill of the weekend win at Tynecastle, Lewis Vaughan’s starting role was a welcome surprise in the Raith team selection – with Gozie Ugwu and Ross Matthews dropping out through injury, Vaughan started in support of Manny Duku upfront, the Dutch striker also returning to the starting line-up having scored as substitute in Saturday’s win. Keeper Jamie MacDonald continued in goal following his excellent showing at Tynecastle, with a back four of Kieran MacDonald, Benedictus, Musonda, and Tumilty in front.

Robbie Neilson brought his side to Starks Park no doubt looking for a quick start, stung by their weekend defeat. With Christophe Berra dropping out through injury, Mihai Popescu began at centre-half. Josh Ginnelly was rewarded for his fine second-half showing at Tynecastle with a starting berth, at the expense of Elliot Frear; Steven Naismith dropped to the bench with Jamie Walker starting upfront. Intriguingly for Hearts fans, Ivory Coast under-21 international Armand Gnanduillet began on the bench, after joining the Gorgie Road side only the day before. While Ginnelly’s match would be cut short by injury, Gnanduillet’s Hearts career started with his fine brace here.

As anticipated, Hearts began strongly, the ball moving quickly left and right across the visiting midfield with Mackay-Steven, Ginnelly, and Irvine all seeing plenty of touches in the opening minutes. Andy Halliday and Jamie Walker each pressed deep, looking to prevent Raith building from the back – from a Rovers’ perspective, Manny Duku looked isolated from the opening minutes. Although it took eleven minutes for the visitors to generate their first chance - Popescu dinking a lovely ball toward Jamie Walker, whose shot required a firm block from Jamie MacDonald – it was no surprise given the volume of possession Robbie Neilson had enjoyed to that point.. A vicious angled drive from Ginnelly followed moments later.

The visitors suffered a blow with quarter of an hour gone, with Ginnelly falling awkwardly, requiring Euan Henderson as a straight replacement on the right wing. Within seconds of the restart, Musonda’s under-hit pass-back saw Jamie Walker nip round Jamie MacDonald, but the striker’s finish could only find the side netting.

Raith’s desire to play out from the back was being severely tested by their visitors’ aggressive high press – with Walker, Mackay-Steven, and Boyce flying around the Raith final third in pursuit of their opponents, Rovers were being hurried out of possession, leading to some rushed passing and deflected clearances. While Rovers managed to clear their lines on each occasion, Hearts successfully disrupted the flow into Raith’s midfield, denying Vaughan Kennedy or Duku a reliable source of supply. Walker dispossessed Vaughan in the Raith third on twenty-five minutes, Halliday blasting over from twenty yards.

It was nearly half-an-hour before Kai Kennedy had his first chance to run at his opponent – his thirty-yard charge drawing a corner from Smith’s challenge – however, it was Hearts who broke well, Henderson speeding through midfield and feeding Kingsley, who blasted wide from fifteen yards. Gary Mackay-Steven was the next to show, his cross from an advanced position beyond Liam Boyce.

Hearts’ opener, when it came, was very much on the balance of play – Liam Boyce dropped into midfield, drove forward in possession, exchanged a neat one-two with Michael Smith before firing powerfully through MacDonald from ten yards – while the finish was emphatic, the ease with which Boyce weaved his way through a crowded Raith defence would have disappointed the Raith management team.

Robbie Neilson sensed Raith were there for the taking, waving his troops forward. Within a minute of their opener, Boyce’s flick saw Andy Halliday clean through on goal – Jamie MacDonald spread himself and saved well, deflecting the drive over the bar. From the resultant corner, Hearts scored a deserved second – Walker’s cross was flicked on at the near-post by Boyce, and Euan Henderson was alone in the six-yard box to bundle home.

An awful five minutes for the home side continued, as Raith’s evening went from bad to worse – suddenly two goals down, Regan Henry clashed with Andy Halliday in midfield. As play moved away, Hendry was adjudged to have connected with the prostrate Hearts striker – referee Euan Anderson went straight to his top pocket, dismissing Hendry for violent conduct. With the final action of the half, another sharp attack saw Liam Boyce with another drive at goal - again Jamie MacDonald making a good save.

As the half-time whistle sounded, it was the visitors in complete command: Halliday, Boyce, Irvine, and Walker had each pressed hard in their hosts’ defensive third, and Rovers’ defence – often the origin of much of Raith’s attacking play – had been decoupled from their colleagues; as a result, neither Duku Kennedy Vaughan nor Armstrong had been able to impact the match from a Raith perspective. Manager McGlynn didn’t have his troubles to seek at the interval.

The second-half began much as the first had finished – with Raith’s midfield depleted in numbers, Hearts looked to dominate possession. Jamie Walker had the first chance, driving at goal from twenty yards, MacDonald at full stretch to tip round the post. While Boyce was offside on fifty minutes when finishing powerfully from Kingsley’s cross, MacDonald’s one-handed save was another fine example of the Raith keeper’s quality. Duku clashed with Popescu under a high ball, earning yellow for a robust challenge – a sign of the frustration growing in Rovers’ ranks.

Liam Boyce was withdrawn for Gnanduillet on the hour, as Hearts continued to generate further chances – Kingsley and Mackay-Steven driving high and wide respectively when well placed. The sub was involved straight away, heading at MacDonald from a Mackay-Steven cross. With sixty-six minutes gone, another scramble in the Raith box saw Gnanduillet and Benedictus jostle with the ball bobbling on the goal-line – referee Euan Anderson blew for a free-kick before the Hearts substitute could open his account.

With the tempo of the second half not matching the heights of the first, Raith’s defensive line was bolstered with the welcome return to first-team action for Iain Davidson, last seen in a Raith jersey in November’s 5-0 victory over Morton. With Manny Duku withdrawn, Kai Kennedy was pressed furthest forward, and for the following spell, Raith generated more possession than had been enjoyed at any previous stage – Davidson and Benedictus both sought to pass forward, Ethan Ross and Dylan Tait buzzed around the midfield with some intent, and full-backs MacDonald and Tumilty pressed down their respective flanks.

Although there was only a two-goal difference, in truth the match had been over as a contest well before Gnanduillet scored twice in the closing stages. For his first, the Ivorian fired home confidently from Naismith’s centre following an errant pass in the Raith rearguard. With the pace of the game dropping, and Hearts retaining possession well in all areas, Gnanduillet looked a threat with both his height and movement in front of Raith’s centre-halves – he rounded off a fine evening for Robbie Neilson’s men with a commanding header from an outswinging corner, rising above Benedictus and finding the far post.

Referee Euan Anderson put Raith out of their misery moments later with the final whistle, leaving an exhausted Rovers’ side to gather themselves for important League encounters with Dunfermline and Dundee – for Hearts, the satisfaction of erasing the indignity of Saturday’s defeat with this resounding four-goal victory.


Photographs © Tony Fimister



RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the defeat to league leaders Hearts at Stark's Park:

Live Updates

Welcome to tonight's game Raith V Hearts. Raith make two changes to the starting line up from Saturday's game against Hearts. Duku starts for Ugwu and returning back to the game to replace Matthews is VAUGHAN - welcome back.
Vaughan gets the game underway
First foul of the night as Spencer clips the heals of Halliday. Free-kick Hearts
First four minutes and Hearts have come out pushing. Raith are coping
Ginnelly gets the ball into the Raith box but MacDonald is able to gather comfortably to halt any threat from Hearts
Kennedy looks up and sees Duku and gets the ball up field. Unfortunately Duku is offside
Musonda defends well as he heads clear a Hearts free-kick
Hearts get the ball into the Raith box but MacDonald comes out and collects whilst under pressure
Walker goes for a strike but a great save from MacDonald
Hearts corner
Hearts from the corner get the ball deep into the box. Connection is made by Hearts and thankfully the ball goes over the bar.
Play has stopped whilst Ginnelly receives treatment
Early substitution for Hearts as Ginnelly is subbed off and on comes Henderson
Ooh close for Hearts as Walker picks up a loose ball as Benedictus loses his man. Walker goes for goal as MacDonald comes out but his effort hits the side netting
Booking for Heart's Smith
Hearts on the threat again as they once again pressure the Raith goal. J MacDonald has gone down and receiving treatment
J MacDonald is back up and gets the ball back up field to get play back underway
Duku doesn't quite get the ball as Hearts defend well to divert an overhead ball to Duku
GMS gets the ball into the centre of the Raith box but the threat is cleared
Halliday has a shot on goal but it's high and wide
Kennedy wins a first corner for Raith as he takes the ball and drives forward
From the corner Hearts pick up the ball and drive back anf breakaway into the Raith half. Kingsleygoes for goal but his effort is high and goes out of play
30 min played Hearts have had most of the play and been the greater threat, however Raith have defended and it is still Raith 0 Hearts 0
Free-kick Raith as Walker fouls Hendry
Goal Hearts as Boyce gets through the Raith defence and fires the ball into the back of the net
MacDonald makes an important save as Hearts get through again
Goal Hearts as Henderson slots the ball away from a Hearts corner
Red card...Hendry for Raith has received a straight red for stamping on a Hearts player
Musonda gives the ball a boot into the main stand
45+1 Raith lose the ball and Hearts take advantage as they pick it up and go forward
45 + 2 Boyce is given a through ball and moves forward. He goes for goal and MacDonald gets down and saves
45 + 3 ref blows blows for half time Raith have been on the back foot for the first half. A lot for McGlynn and Smith to talk over during the break. Raith 0 Hearts 2 ( Boyce 35' Henderson 38')
The teams return to the pitch for the second half.
No obvious substitutions.
Duku will have his work cut out for him this half due to a man short in midfield
MacDonald with a low save, corner, the ball comes back in and MacDonald comfortably gathers
Vaughan off, Tait on
MacDonald a great point-blank save from Boyce, offside given
Boyce crosses from the by-line to MacKay Steve wide left, he skies the ball into the North Stand
Duku yellow for clattering his man with an arm.
MacKay-Steve with a low shot from the edge of the box sees the ball coming off Boyce for a GK
Boyce off, Gnanduillet on
Gordon rushing out 20 yards to clear from the touchline.
New lad Gnanduillet heads down and MacDonald saves low to his right
Spencer fouls MacKay-Steven FK 35 yards out, MacDonald gathers a Hearts header.
Hearts corner, Gnanduillet heads down, there's a bit of a scramble but the ball is gathered a foot from the line
MacKay-Steven off, Naismith on
Duku off, Davidson on.
Davidson introduces himself to Gnanduillet
Armstrong off, Ross on
The pace has dropped and both teams passing the ball between both midfields
Goal Hearts. Tait gibes the ball away to Walker who crosses to Gnanduillet hit touch hammers the ball past the stranded MacDonald
MotM voted by the app, Jamie MacDonald
Ball in the Rovers net ruled offside
+1 Goal Hearts. Gnanduillet strokes the ball in at the back post with a superb header from a corner.
+2 Full time. The difference between the two head to heads was the better side won.
Full time score. Raith Rovers 0-4 Heart of Midlothian (Boyce 35' Henderson 38' Gnanduillet 83' 90+2')