Hearts lack cutting edge again as Alloa make cup history

Alloa’s winning goal caused much debate, but the truth is Hearts should have secured Betfred Cup progress long before Alan Trouten’s extra-time penalty.

By Barry Anderson
Monday, 30th November 2020, 7:00 am
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson (left) and Craig Gordon confront the referee Gavin Duncan at full time at Alloa.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson (left) and Craig Gordon confront the referee Gavin Duncan at full time at Alloa.

The theme of the afternoon in Clackmannanshire was a familiar one for the Edinburgh club. They struggled at Arbroath and Dunfermline in recent weeks for similar reasons – plenty possession but lacking a cutting edge.

This time it cost them a quarter-final place as Alloa reached the League Cup’s last eight for only the fifth time in their history. The 1-0 victory was their first ever competitive win against Hearts.

A 109th-minute penalty proved decisive, awarded by referee Gavin Duncan for a supposed foul by Jamie Walker on the Alloa substitute Robert Thomson.

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Hearts protested but knew also that their substantial resources and squad size should have been sufficient to dispense with part-time opponents.

They were camped in Alloa’s half for long spells, delivered a plethora of crosses into the opposition penalty box but without the quality to convert.

Credit must go to Peter Grant’s resilient side for springing a major cup shock just four days after losing 3-0 to Hearts in the league at Tynecastle Park.

Robbie Neilson and Craig Gordon confronted the officials at the end of the 120 minutes. Neilson received a yellow card for dissent before leaving the field on what was a depressing day for the Edinburgh club.

“As a whole, we didn’t score and we had plenty chances to go and win the game without that,” said Gordon. “We haven’t managed to do it so we don’t want to point fingers at the referee.

“We’ve lost 1-0 when we could’ve taken the game in our own hands. We created chances, the final ball wasn’t great at times. If we’d got the first, we would have gone on to win. We felt comfortable, we just couldn’t get that goal.

“Whenever you play on astroturf, it’s a leveller. You’ve got to fight for every ball because it doesn’t move the same as grass. It’s a different game. The passing isn’t as fast and that changes the game. You can still win, you have to adapt.”

A first-half chance for Olly Lee and a late cross by substitute Jordan Roberts which hit the goal frame were two of the better opportunities. However, as a potent attacking force, Hearts left much to be desired.

The game looked destined for a penalty shootout when Thomson fell in the penalty area with Walker in close attendance. Duncan pointed to the spot and Trouten converted a historic goal

“The ball has bounced awkwardly and Jamie is running back. The guy takes a fresh-air shot and gets a penalty,” was Gordon’s viewpoint.

“The referee refused to speak to me. I just asked what the foul was for, what part of his body made a foul. For me, Jamie was just running back beside him and he [Thomson] fell over trying to get the strike because it was bouncing awkwardly.

“The referee has seen a foul somewhere, or from his angle maybe he thinks Jamie has caught him. I didn’t see very much contact, if any. If anything, he has kicked Jamie trying to get contact on the ball. I didn’t think it was a penalty.”

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The story of how Hearts crashed out to Alloa

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