GARY Oliver and Kevin McHattie goals were sufficient to guide Hearts into the third round of the Scottish League Cup despite a valiant second half effort by League One Stenhousemuir.
Kieran Miller reduced the deficit before half-time and the hosts gave everything after the interval, although they could not force an equaliser past Lee Hollis in the Hearts goal.
The visitors lost both Jordan McGhee and James Keatings to injury in the first half but they took just five minutes to open the scoring. Jason Holt fed David Smith for a right-wing run and cross expertly converted by Oliver’s right boot. On 31 minutes, McHattie etched his name on the scoresheet with a controlled, low finish following a through ball by the excellent Holt.
Stenhousemuir began to threaten after McGhee departed. A 25-yard effort from Bryan Hodge sailed over the Hearts crossbar before Miller reduced the deficit. Kris Faulds’ deflected cross was laid off by Martin Grehan and the midfielder slotted the ball low beyond Lee Hollis in the Hearts goal.
Oliver glanced another David Smith cross narrowly wide just after the restart. However, Stenhousemuir were asserting themselves better. They came close to an equaliser when Grehan’s header from Ross Meechan’s cross looped just over the Hearts crossbar. Hollis in also had to beat away another driven shot from Miller and, at that point, the visitors looked disjointed.
David Smith and substitute Osman Sow both had efforts at goal when Hearts did break forward. Greg Fleming, the Stenhousemuir goalkeeper, also produced a fine save low to his right to deny Liam Smith a first competitive goal on 63 minutes. From the resulting corner, Sow headed against the crossbar before Fleming’s foot stopped Jamie Walker scoring from close range.
Hollis was called upon to hold a curling attempt by Faulds before Fleming again denied Sow one-on-one at the opposite end. The Swedish striker, back from suspension, created a glaring chance for Walker on 78 minutes after an outrageous piece of skill to evade Alan Lithgow. Somehow, the winger shot high from 12 yards.
The game ended with Hearts looking more comfortable, save for a late chance for Greacen at the back post. New signing Adam Eckersley made his debut as a late replacement for Kevin McHattie. The second half had been difficult at times but the Edinburgh club now take their place in the next round of the League Cup.
Stenhousemuir (4-2-3-1): Fleming; Meechan, Greacen, McMillan, Summers; Miller (Sludden 75), Hodge; Dickson (Lithgow 46), Faulds, Millar (McMenamin 46); Grehan. Subs: Shaw, Duncan, Watt, Reid.
Hearts (4-4-2): Hollis; L Smith, McGhee (Gordon 30), McKay, McHattie (Eckersley 87); D Smith, Holt, Robinson, Walker; Keatings (Sow 38), Oliver. Subs: Halliwell, El Hassnaoui, King, Roy.
Referee: Calum Murray.