Hearts 4-1 Dundee United: Jambos add to visitors’ woes with 4-1 hammering

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Former Dundee United striker Lawrence Shankland heaped more misery on his old club as he set Hearts on their way to a 4-1 cinch Premiership victory at Tynecastle on Sunday.

The Tannadice outfit were looking to bounce back from their 7-0 Europa Conference League thrashing away to AZ Alkmaar on Thursday, but they got off to the worst possible start when they fell behind in the first minute.

Further goals from Barrie McKay, Jorge Grant and substitute Josh Ginnelly ensured a dismal end to a grim week for United and allowed Hearts to head off to Switzerland in high spirits for their Europa League play-off first leg against FC Zurich.

Tynecastle boss Robbie Neilson made one alteration to the side that started the 1-1 draw with city rivals Hibernian last weekend as Cammy Devlin replaced Peter Haring in midfield.

United manager Jack Ross made three changes from Thursday night as Craig Sibbald, Dylan Levitt and Steven Fletcher were replaced by Ross Graham, Glenn Middleton and Mathew Anim Cudjoe.

Image: Hearts’ Lawrence Shankland (right) celebrates after making it 1-0 against Dundee United at Tynecastle

Hearts got off to the perfect start when they played their way into the danger area straight from kick-off and Shankland fired home a clinical close-range finish from Devlin’s cross.

The hosts were well on top in the opening exchanges and they threatened again in the fifth minute when Alan Forrest seized possession in his own half, drove forward into the United box and saw a shot deflected behind off Aziz Behich.

Four minutes later, United veteran Charlie Mulgrew – who had been moved forward from centre-back into a midfield role – was loose with a pass in the Hearts half, allowing McKay to surge forward before seeing a low angled shot pushed wide by keeper Mark Birighitti. The resulting corner caused panic in the United box but Hearts were unable to force the ball in.

Grant then tried his luck with a shot from a free-kick wide on the left which was punched out by Birighitti.

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Barrie McKay reflects on his impressive start to the season after scoring in Hearts’ 4-1 win over Dundee United

After weathering the early Hearts storm, United started to feel their way into the game and Ryan Edwards saw a firm low strike from 30 yards out well saved by Craig Gordon on the half-hour.

Hearts went straight up the park and almost doubled their lead but Birighitti raced from his line to save at the feet of Devlin after McKay had slipped the Australian through on goal.

The Jambos doubled their lead just three minutes into the second half when McKay curled home a lovely finish from 25 yards out.

The hosts notched again in the 62nd minute when Grant followed up to tap home his first goal for the club after Birighitti could only parry a Michael Smith shot into his path.

United got themselves a lifeline in the 71st minute when substitute Fletcher converted a penalty after Behich was deemed to have been fouled by Gary Mackay-Steven, but Hearts were comfortable thereafter and Ginnelly ran clear to fire home a lovely finish with the last kick of the game.

What the managers said…

Neilson demands more despite 4-1 win for Hearts

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson:

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Robbie Neilson backs his Hearts side to get even better after beating Dundee United 4-1

“We started the game really well but I thought the first half we never played anywhere near the levels we normally play at.

“We were trying to force the play, giving it away and not doing the things we’d spoken about previously.

“We changed it at half-time and managed to get settled in the game and do what we’re good at.”

Asked if Hearts are now up to speed ahead of their trip to Switzerland, Neilson said: “We’re getting there.

“But I thought the first half we were pretty poor, similar to Ross County (on the opening day), and if we do that on Thursday night we will be two or three goals down. We need to start the game better.”

Ross: We lacked ‘energy, aggression and physicality”

Dundee Utd boss Jack Ross:

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Jack Ross discusses what went wrong after a ‘desperately poor’ performance saw Dundee United lose 4-1 at Hearts

“Irrespective of what went previously, you have to start games better than that,” he said.

“When one game begins, the other game is forgotten about. You have to give yourself a platform to win football matches and we didn’t do that by not doing the fundamentals of the game in terms of matching runs, being physical and putting contact on people in the first 45 seconds, which is not great.

“I’ve done this long enough now to learn not to be knee-jerk.

“We’ve had a chastening four days in particular. Prior to that, we’d had a relatively positive start. We were good down at Kilmarnock and good against AZ at home.

“Right now, it’s not about looking at needing players in, it’s more about looking at how I get more out of the players we have.”

What’s next?

Dundee United host St Mirren in their next Scottish Premiership match on 20 August.

Hearts are at home to Celtic the following day. Both games kick off at 3pm.

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