Ross County 0-3 Heart of Midlothian

Jamie Walker (left) scored the opening goal for Hearts

Jamie Walker (left) scored the opening goal for Hearts

Hearts moved 11 points clear of Ross County in third place in the Premiership with three second half goals in Dingwall.

Jamie Walker broke the deadlock when he got a lucky break in the box after an attempted clearance deflected off him.

Then substitute Abiola Dauda scored his first goal for Hearts with a fine finish.

He made it three when he finished off a strong run and cut-back from Dario Zanatta.

The home side were given a significant double boost before kick off with the news that top scorer Liam Boyce had signed a contract extension and was fit to start the match.

Loanee David Goodwillie made his debut against a Hearts side who started with debutant John Souttar at centre back.

Hearts threatened immediately when Sam Nicholson gathered and fired narrowly off target from outside the box after only 18 seconds.

Martin Woods then handed Juanma possession but the visiting striker snatched at his shot and it sailed over.

After that County emerged as an attacking force, using set plays to good effect. Ian McShane’s delivery found Jackson Irvine’s intelligent run but the midfielder powered his header over from six yards.

Irvine was then close to connecting with Michael Gardyne’s wonderful low ball across the six-yard box.

Souttar did well to flick Goodwillie’s shot narrowly over the bar before Gardyne and Boyce got in behind the Hearts defence but failed to test Neil Alexander.

It was Jim McIntyre’s side who started the second period on the front foot, with Boyce slamming a curling shot against the crossbar after a slick attack.

Abiola Dauda scored twice – his first goals for Hearts

Boyce then rose superbly to nod towards goal but could not generate the required power to beat Alexander.

The decisive moment came in the most fortunate circumstances from a Hearts corner.

Don Cowie whipped it towards the near post, Irvine attempted to head clear but the ball cannoned off Walker with goalkeeper Scott Fox claiming he was impeded.

Substitute Alex Schalk had a good opportunity to level from close range before Gardyne delivered a ball to Boyce who turned brilliantly to create an opening but shot wide.

Boyce again turned provider for Gardyne, who drove towards the edge of the box but the winger smashed it way over the bar, summing up a frustrating night for the hosts.

Hearts substitute Dauda announced his arrival in Scottish football when he gathered possession on the left, took his time and bent a fantastic finish into the far corner to settle the match.

He was not finished there as Zanatta fed the Nigerian striker on the edge of the box and he curled in another beauty – this time with his left foot.

Dauda promises much on this evidence.

A three-goal margin was harsh on McIntyre’s side but they simply could not find a route past a resolute Hearts defence, failing to score in a home match for the first time this season.

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