Ewing Grahame

at Rugby Park

Chris Burke will turn 36 in eight days’ time but you would never have guessed it from watching him here. His direct opponent, Aaron Hickey, is less than half his age but he had no answer to the wiles of the older man here.

Burke claimed two goals and an assist inside the opening 16 minutes to make this a long afternoon for the visitors, who cannot seem to hoist themselves away from the relegation zone.

The thoroughly merited victory sent Kilmarnock to within a point of fourth-place Motherwell while leaving Hearts a point above St Mirren at the bottom.

Interim manager Austin MacPhee’s prospects of filling the vacancy at Tynecastle on a permanent basis will have significantly receded following this capitulation against a side which had taken just one point from their last three outings, but he believes that he still has a chance of becoming Craig Levein’s succcessor.

“There’s a bigger picture here; I don’t think I should get the job on the back of last week’s win and, likewise, I shouldn’t not get it on the back of this one,” he said. “The reality is I’ve taken the team six times now and won four times.

“Today was a very disappointing result, especially in the manner of the way we lost the goals. Whether I take the team at Ibrox next weekend, I don’t know. I speak to [owner] Ann Budge every day and the plan will be more long term.

“When people are getting emotional, Ann stays very practical. I don’t think she’d run to a decision after a victory and I don’t think she’d rush to a decision after a defeat.

“You don’t have the full authority a head coach would have and you need to manage within those parameters. I understand that, with each result, the narrative changes.”

Burke rolled back the years to score the opening goal, sprinting down the right flank to get on the end of Mohamed El Makrini’s pass before thrashing the ball high behind Joel Pereira from a tight angle.

He then produced the most inviting of deliveries from the touchline for Eamonn Brophy to bullet a header home from eight yards out and, two minutes later, the veteran effectively ended all doubt about the outcome.

El Makrini took full advantage when Hearts failed to make a corner count and the Dutchman released Burke. The visitors fell further and further back as the veteran ran at them and a feint and his quick feet created the space for him to stroke the ball low past Pereira from 15 yards.

Hearts did have a chance to plant a seed of doubt in the home players’ minds five minutes into the second period but Clevid Dikamona’s free header from Oli Bazonic’s corner drifted wide. Then again, Burke could have been awarded a penalty following a challenge from Aidan White, who found him just as difficult to control as Hickey had.

“It was a great performance from him but I’m not surprised because I’ve seen him do that in our training sessions,” said Kilmarnock manager Angelo Alessio. “He seems like a young man, not someone who is about to turn 36. He works hard every day and is a true professional. I am happy for him because he deserves this.”