Hearts 4-0 Auchinleck Talbot: Jambos ease into the Scottish Cup quarter-finals

Christophe Berra's header soars over the Auchinleck goalkeeper Andrew Leishman to put Hearts 1-0 ahead
Christophe Berra's header soars over the Auchinleck goalkeeper Andrew Leishman to put Hearts 1-0 ahead
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Hearts enjoyed a comfortable passage to the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals with victory over Auchinleck Talbot.

Cheered on by more than 1,800 away fans at Tynecastle Park, the Ayrshire junior side were soundly beaten thanks to goals from Christophe Berra, Demetri Mitchell, Steven MacLean and Aidan Keena.

Auchinleck knocked local rivals Ayr United out in the last round to earn this trip to Tynecastle and were determined to enjoy their day. They visited this venue seven years ago and lost 1-0 as Hearts began their ultimately successful 2012 Scottish Cup campaign.

The winning goal that afternoon did not arrive until six minutes from time. This was a far more straightforward affair with Hearts 3-0 and cruising by the interval and looking forward to Monday night's quarter-final draw. Substitute Keena struck his first goal in maroon in the final minutes.

The tone of the afternoon was set in the opening stages. Striker Uche Ikpeazu had a chance chasing Sean Clare's through ball in on goal, but the Auchinleck keeper Andrew Leishman deflected striker's shot for a corner. Berra than had an effort disallowed before breaking the deadlock on ten minutes. Olly Lee's angled free-kick was met by the skipper's head and nodded powerfully over Leishman.

There was little evidence of Auchinleck's ranking in Scottish football as they pressed and harried maroon shirts with plenty energy in the first half. Ikpeazu's instinctive close-range effort landed in Leishman's arms as Hearts' concerted pressure forced Tommy Sloan's side back.

They had a willing runner up front in Graham Wilson but he found himself isolated in a 4-5-1 formation. The hosts' dominance manifested into a second goal on the half-hour mark. Mitchell cut inside from the left to dispatch a right-footed shot which seemed to take a deflection before creeping into the net near the post.

Leishman produced an expert save worthy of any of his professional colleagues to prevent Auchinleck falling 3-0 behind five minutes later. John Souttar's exquisite through pass found MacLean for a touch and shot which the keeper beat away to his right.

The former St Johnstone striker wasn't to be denied, though. He converted from close range on 38 minutes after Mitchell became provider with a low cross. That effectively killed this tie dead as a contest but, to their credit, Auchinleck refused to surrender.

They came tantalisingly close to reducing the deficit seconds later. A loping through pass found winger Jamie Glasgow in behind Souttar and he tried to loft the bouncing ball over Colin Doyle from 18 yards. To Glasgow's frustration, it bounced just wide of target.

MacLean had the ball in the net early in the second half only for an offside flag to thwart him. Ikpeazu was involved in a running battle with Talbot centre-back Craig McCracken, with both players thriving on the physicality posed by the other. Referee Kevin Clancy spoke to them at one point to calm things but it seemed little more than a good, old-fashioned duel.

Leishman sprung left to save Lee's 63rd-minute free-kick before the juniors fashioned a counter-attack. Again it was Glasgow on the end of it but once more his effort at goal did not test Doyle.

The final 20 minutes saw Talbot retreat further as tiredness crept into their play. Michael Smith was forced off injured 12 minutes from the end, leaving his colleagues to play out the closing stages with ten men. It didn't faze them.

Keena, a replacement for Steven Naismith, scored his first Hearts goal with four minutes remaining. Mitchell's cross landed at his feet and he cleverly switched the ball from one foot to the other before sending a firm finish into the net.

Perhaps cruelly given the effort they had put in, Auchinleck were denied a consolation when Stephen Wilson converted a cross only to turn and see an offside flag raised. That summed up Talbot's luck on the day as Hearts reached the next round of the cup.

Hearts (4-4-2): Doyle; M Smith, Souttar, Berra, Mitchell; Clare (Morrison 46), Lee, Djoum, Naismith (Keena 76); Ikpeazu (Venecek 72), MacLean. Unused subs: Zlamal, Shaughnessy, Bozanic, Mulraney.

Auchinleck (4-5-1): Leishman; Lyle, McPherson, McCracken, Pope; S Wilson, Armstrong, Hyslop, White (Samson 74), Glasgow (Shankland 81); G Wilson (McIlroy 81). Unused subs: Hewitt, Kemp, Waite, Harvey.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.

Attendance: 14,946.