After two 90-minute games, plus 30 minutes of extra-time, Hearts dispensed with a defiant Raith Rovers to tee up an Edinburgh derby with Hibs in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup.
Ian Cathro’s team made heavy work of both the first match and the replay and needed a Jamie Walker penalty and a Bjorn Johnsen goal to secure a 4-2 victory in extra-time.
The priority was progressing and that much was achieved. Hearts displayed grit and character against a Rovers team which gave every ounce of energy and tenacity they could muster. In the end the were beaten but far from disgraced against opponents from a division above.
Hearts’ 18-year-old striker Rory Currie claimed his first senior goal on his first start for Hearts to equalise Bobby Barr’s opening goal. In extra-time, Malaury Martin’s first Hearts goal from the penalty spot put the hosts 2-1 ahead. However, substitute Ryan Hardie equalised quickly again. Walker’s penalty and Johnsen’s late contribution settled a pulsating night of football.
The winners now meet Hibs in the fifth round in what is sure to be a powderkeg affair between the two Capital rivals. It must be said that Hearts have plenty work to do to prepare to host their neighbours and that will be uppermost in Cathro’s mind. He must steer his team through league fixtures against Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell first, though.
The pre-match danger for Hearts was a possible hangover from Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park. Raith had already caused one cup upset by holding their Premiership guests and forcing this rematch. They arrived in Gorgie looking to seize the opportunity and complete a monumental shock.
As he did on Sunday, Rudi Skacel started on the substitutes’ bench. Hearts paired Currie alongside Johnsen in attack. Krystian Nowak and Don Cowie weren’t risked due to niggling injuries, which meant a recall for Prince Buaben in midfield. Recent signings Aaron Hughes, Andraz Struna, Lennard Sowah and Malaury Martin were all sampling Tynecastle for the first time.
The Scottish Cup remained the only realistic chance of silverware this season for both clubs, so there was no questioning the magnitude of the occasion. In front of a healthy 10,740 crowd, Raith began in determined fashion with an abundance of energy and pace. Declan McManus, the scorer of Sunday’s late equaliser, stung the palms of Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton in the opening minutes.
The home side responded with a driving run and shot by Jamie Walker, but then found themselves facing a deficit before the 15-minute mark. The Raith winger Barr was given time for a diagonal run from the left through the entire Hearts midfield. Around 20 yards from goal, he unleashed a shot which ricocheted heavily off Hughes and spun out of Hamilton’s reach into the net.
It was the goal manager Gary Locke craved to unsettle the natives inside the stadium where he remains a hero. The travelling support were buoyant and celebrated with a chant of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ – aimed at the Hearts head coach Cathro.
Raith continued apace with tigerish tackling allied to their high pressing game. They sensed Hearts were vulnerable in defence and that the home fans were audibly irked seeing their team 1-0 down.
The locals appealed for a penalty when Johnsen fell challenging for a high ball with Kevin McHattie just inside the box, although referee John Beaton was unmoved. The visiting goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert then denied Struna with an expert save high to his right.
Largely through sheer persistence, Hearts equalised ten minutes from the interval. They won possession in midfield and Johnsen scampered forward in possession. His intelligent through pass found Currie peeling off his marker for a composed first-time finish beyond Cuthbert. The roar which arrived as the ball hit the net was as much in relief as outright joy, although the young forward would rightly have felt elated at making his mark.
Sam Nicholson replaced Buaben at the start of the second period to make his comeback from a four-month injury lay-off. He had been sorely missed since undergoing knee surgery in October and was introduced with the aim of unlocking the well-organised Rovers defence.
It was in midfield where most of the action and combat was taking place. Raith harried their opponents like their lives depended on it and showed outstanding industry in the process. Hearts tried to stay composed and not become rattled as time ticked on. The prospect of this tie extending into extra-time appealed far more to those from Fife than Edinburgh.
Struna’s attempt from distance spun off a defender and narrowly over the crossbar. The full-back then supplied a cross which Currie headed into Cuthbert’s arms. At the opposite end, Raith carved an excellent scoring chance on the break when Barr’s cross landed with Mark Stewart around eight yards out. On Sunday, the striker hit the crossbar from similar distance. This time, a heavy touch allowed Hamilton to collect the ball – much to the dejection of Locke and his staff in the away dugout.
Martin’s angled free-kick from the right after 70 minutes found Nicholson unmakred at the back post. The winger’s header across goal skimmed the top of the crossbar and went out of play. Hearts were increasing the tempo and again claimed for a penalty when Jean-Yves M’Voto tackled Walker. Again they were refused.
Sowah’s venture into the Rovers penalty box resulted in a cross and a mad scramble to clear, with McHattie at the centre of it. Eventually the ball was thumped to safety. Raith were visibly tiring entering the final ten minutes but forced their way forward. On 87 minutes, substitute Ryan Hardie was gifted a chance when Sowah’s throw-in went straight to his feet, but he was closed down and his shot stifled.
Johnsen had a header from Struna’s cross which Cuthbert pushed away at full stretch, and the American angled a low effort just wide of the post seconds later. The final whistle signalled extra-time and both sides had to regroup for another 30 minutes.
The added period was just three minutes old when Hearts were awarded a penalty. This time there was no debate. Walker scampered into the box onto a lofted through ball which skimmed inadvertently off M’Voto’s head. Benedictus came across and scythed him down, leaving Beaton no choice but to point to the spot.
Walker has been Hearts’ penalty taker this term but he needed treatment such was the ferocity of the challenge. Martin took the ball and stepped forward on to the spot before slotting it comfortably to Cuthbert’s left. That really should have been that, but Raith’s reslience was to rise to the fore once again.
In the 100th minute they forced an equaliser. John Souttar controlled the ball only for Stewart’s benefit and he seized on the opportunity. He charged forward and squared for Hardie to calmly clip his finish over the advancing Hamilton.
Those in the visiting technical area danced for joy and were then silenced within minutes as Benedictus again brought Walker down inside the box. Beaton awarded Hearts a second penalty which Walker confidently dispatched. The frustration boiled over and Locke was ordered to the stand for dissent.
Five minutes from the end, passage to the next round was ensured when Johnsen stroked home his team’s fourth goal. He capitalised on a rebound when Cuthbert parried substitute Conor Sammon’s low drive. Finally, this Scottish Cup tie drew towards a conclusion – which means an Edinburgh derby in two-and-a-half weeks’ time.
Hearts (4-4-2): Hamilton; Struna (Smith 91), Souttar, Hughes, Sowah; Buaben (Nicholson 46) (Sammon 106), Kitchen, Martin, Walker; Johnsen, Currie (Zanatta 98). Unused subs: Noring, Oshaniwa, Beith.
Raith (4-4-2): Cuthbert; Davidson (Thomson 70), M’Voto, Benedictus, McHattie; Matthews, Callachan, Thompson (Hardie 78), B Barr (Johnston 98); McManus (Skacel 99), Stewart. Unused subs: Brennan, Roberts, C Barr.
Referee: J Beaton.