Hearts Colts left it late, but ultimately did enough to progress in the Irn-Bru Cup after a 3-2 extra-time win over Formartine United in an entertaining game at New Lodge Park.
First-half goals from Archie MacPhee and Max Berton has Formartine two to the good before Dario Zanatta reduced the deficit early in the second half. Rory Currie’s penalty miss looked to have proved costly before Zanatta scored again deep in to stoppage time.
In a frantic period of extra time, Hearts found the winner with just minutes remaining when Harry Paton fired home the winner.
The hosts were unlucky not to take an early lead when Berton created space for himself and fired low past Kelby Mason, only for Hearts captain Daniel Baur to kick his goal-bound effort off the line. Mason then got an early touch of the ball when he comfortably gathered Calum Dingwall’s first-time effort that lacked the accuracy to seriously trouble him.
Some twisting and turning from Callumn Morrison got the winger free from his man on the right, and his cross-come-shot had to be palmed away by Greg Sim.
MacPhee found himself with an opportunity when Paul lawson’s free-kick from the left found his feet, but Mason stood up well to block from with his legs from close range.
The Formartine number six made no mistake moments later when he enjoyed a fortunate break of the ball before curling a wonderful effort past the diving Mason in to the far corner.
The lead was doubled ten minutes before the break when Dingwall delivered a fine in-swinging cross from the right, and Berton stole a match on his marker at the back post to dispatch first time in to the corner.
It should have been 3-0 and game over five minutes later when Scott Barbour spun in behind, but again Mason used his legs to keep it out.
Zanatta was inches from reducing the deficit on the stroke of half-time when he beat Sim to Morrison’s free-kick delivery, but could only watched as his header drifted agonisingly wide of the empty goal.
An early second half Formartine corner was met at the back post by Stuart Smith, but the full-back couldn’t keep his header down when anything on target would’ve likely gone in.
The visitors responded by going up the other end and scoring. Zanatta played a clever one-two on the edge of the box with Euan Henderson before sliding coolly past the on-rushing Sim.
The Wee Jambos then spurned the chance to draw level after Zanatta was felled, somewhat softly, in the area. Rory Currie stepped up but his low spot-kick was saved by Sim.
Barbour went close to re-establishing the Highland League outfit’s two-goal cushion when he sent a snapshot just wide of the post before Zanatta saw an effort cleared off the line at the other end.
Angus Beith was inches from a stunning leveller when his free-kick clipped the outside of the post with Sim rooted to the spot. Henderson then should have equalised with a free-header from Morrison’s cross, but nodded wide.
Just when it looked like Hearts would be heading back down the A90 after the regulation 90, some brilliant interplay ended with Zanatta striding through on goal and rolling past Sim to force extra-time.
A tiring Formartine had their workload increased after Ferries was shown a second yellow for diving in the penalty box.
Another late goal for Hearts looked likely, and it came when Paton and Currie executed a perfect one-two, putting the latter through on goal to fire home.
That prompted a celebratory pitch invasion from the Hearts bench. Referee Dan McFarlane didn’t enamour himself to anyone in the ground when he subsequently booked everyone who ran on, which meant a second yellow for Hearts defender Kyle Smith.
Formartine Utd: Sim, Michie, Smith, Lawson (Rodger 56), Lawrence (Gethins 77), MacPhee (Crawford 105), Dingwall, Burnett, Berton (MacKintosh 89), Ferries, Barbour.
Hearts Colts: Mason, Hamilton, Sandison, Baur, Smith (Reid 114), Beith, Morrison, Petkov (Paton 111), Currie, Henderson (Irving 79), Zanatta.
Referee: Dan McFarlane