Hearts are just 90 minutes from their first Scottish Cup semi-final since 2012 as they welcome Partick Thistle to Tynecastle Park on Tuesday night (7.45pm KO).
Craig Levein’s men paid the price for their wastefulness at Firhill last Monday and face the dreaded replay in front of what could be a nervy home crowd.
Thistle arriving in EH11 for a Scottish Cup tie provokes good memories, the Maryhill side were dispatched 2-1 on the way to success in the competition 13 years ago.
That afternoon Edgaras Jankaukas and Deividas Cesnauskis netted in a 2-1 win to set up an Edinburgh derby semi final, won 4-0 by Valdas Ivanauskas’ men.
Hearts took a big step on Saturday, winning away from home without the absent Steven Naismith. The talismanic figure is out until May but the team dug deep and etched out a 1-0 victory over struggling Dundee.
David Vanecek partnered Uche Ikpeazu up front in the win but they didn’t quite click straight away.
“They were rusty, definitely not a well-oiled machine. I certainly won’t give up on them, that’s for sure,” Levein said. “You have to remember that was the longest David has been on the pitch for us up until now.”
Opportunities were few and far between but both would be hoping to get chances against Championship opposition. Yet, Levein could look for more mobility in the final third and bring Craig Wighton in to partner Uche.
The 21-year-old was given over 20 minutes in the game with his former side having missed the last 13 games and he is still searching for his first goal in a Hearts shirt. What better way to get it than in a defining match of the season.
The replay is the biggest and most important fixture of the season so far, even including the Betfred Cup semi final against Celtic in front of more than 60,000. Fans see a promising path to the final in May. The game is not quite season-ending with the team just four points from third place.
Partick Thistle come into the game after a crucial win over Dundee United on Saturday, courtesy of a late goal from Aidan Fitzpatrick.
The result lifted Gary Caldwell’s team off the foot of the table.
Hearts team news
There are, for once, no new injury worries with Jamie Brandon returning following his suspension, while Sean Clare is managing a niggle with his hip. Aidan Keena is training again after feeling some pain relating to a hernia surgery and could be involved. Steven Naismith (knee), Michael Smith (thigh) and Demetri Mitchell (knee) are all out.
Possible Hearts XI
Zlamal; Godinho, Souttar, Berra, Garuccio; Morrison, Djoum, Haring, Clare; Ikpeazu, Wighton. Subs from: Doyle, Brandon, Shaughnessy, Bozanic, Mulraney, Lee, Vanecek, MacLean, Keena, Cochrane, Doyle.
Partick Thistle news
Similar to Hearts there are no fresh injury concerns after Saturday’s fixture. However, Stuart Bannigan and Andy McCarthy are still doubts having missed the weekend’s encounter and have continued their work with the physio.
Possible Partick Thistle XI
Hazard; McMillan, Anderson, Saunders, Penrice; Spittal, Slater; Elliot, Mansell, Fitzpatrick; McDonald. Subs from: Storey, McGinty, Harkins, Cardle, Doolan, Roy, Bannigan, McCarthy, Sneddon.
Magic number - 63
The minute Deividas Cesnauskis netted a fantastic goal, cutting in from the right, to send Hearts into the 2006 Scottish Cup semi-final. Edgaras Jankaukas had opened the scoring but his Lithuanian compatriot’s goal proved crucial with Thistle scoring in the 75th minute to set up a nervy conclusion.
Neither Ucke Ikpeazu or David Vanecek had many, if any, opportunities during the 1-0 win over Dundee on Saturday. Craig Levein will want crosses fired into the box early on against Thistle and much of that responsibility will lie on the young shoulders of Callumn Morrison. The teenager will come up against another youngster in James Penrice and the winger will likely be told to keep going at his opponent and be positive. If he gets the better of the defender Uche could break his duck since returning from injury to send Hearts to Hampden.
Bobby Madden is once again the man in the middle having overseen the first match between the sides. Hearts boss Levein was unhappy the official didn’t award Hearts a penalty for a challenge on Ikpeazu last time out. This will be Madden’s fifth time in charge of the Tynecastle side this season. He also faced the ire of Levein during Rangers’ controversial 2-1 win at Tynecastle in December.
Hearts 52/100 Draw 29/10 Partick Thistle 6/1
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