Football: Adam's hat-trick keeps Hearts ahead

Heart of Midlothian 5 Kilmarnock 3
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Credibility as well as points are at stake at Tynecastle these days. Even as they stretched their lead over Rangers to four points, Hearts still face a weekly battle to convince the world at large that they are top of the league on merit.

Their win yesterday owed more to the dangers posed by their attack than the soundness of their defence. Stephane Adam contributed a hat-trick to the home side's cause and Jose Quitongo, a late substitute, scored with his second touch to add gloss to the victory. Still, there was a lack of conviction about this victory against a Kilmarnock side which were on top for long periods in the second half and were denied a strong penalty claim when 2-1 down.

The visitors gave notice of their intent with the opening goal in the fourth minute, Pat Nevin hitting a well-timed volley past Gilles Rousset from close range.

Hearts responded with their first of the day from Adam, a powerful header into the top corner from a cross by Stephano Salvatori.

Hearts increased their lead after Kilmarnock had hit the bar with a fine goal by Neil McCann. The winger completed a one-two on the edge of the penalty area before supplying a sublime finish with a left-foot shot which ripped high into the net.

At that stage Hearts looked set to go on and increase their lead, but Kilmarnock came out fighting at the start of the second half and were denied a strong penalty claim in the 59th minute when Jerome Vareille appeared to be brought down by Stephen Frail. Within seconds David Weir headed across goal from a free-kick for Adam to supply his second and Hearts third goal with a back post header. Two minutes later Gary Holt reduced the arrears for Kilmarnock.

Adam completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute as he slid the ball under the advancing goalkeeper to give the home side a 4-2 lead, but again Kilmarnock fought back and a Mark Roberts penalty five minutes later took them back to within a goal.

Adam was denied a fourth goal by a superb save before Quitongo, the former Hamilton forward, supplied the finish to a fine Hearts move and also to the match.

"We're certainly determined and our players showed a bit of character today," Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager, said. "To win the league you have to overcome dips in form, injuries and suspensions and we'll take it one game at a time, but if we get to the halfway stage still in front we'll hope to keep our form going."

Goals: Nevin (4) 0-1; Adam (10) 1-1; McCann (27) 2-1; Adam (60) 3-1; Holt (62) 3-2; Adam (70) 4-2; Roberts pen (75) 4-3; Quintongo (89) 5-3.

Heart of Midlothian (4-3-3): Rousset; Frail (Hamilton, 66), Weir, Ritchie, Locke; Salvatori, Cameron, Fulton; Adam, Flogel (Robertson 78), McCann (Quitongo, 86).

Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Lekovic; MacPherson, McGowne, Lauchlan, Baker; Nevin, Holt, Reilly, Mitchell; Vareille, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Wright, Henry, Whitworth.

Referee: A Freeland (Aberdeen).

Bookings: Kilmarnock: McGowne, Baker, Roberts.

Attendance: 16,015.

Man of the match: Adam.