Why an 18-year-old was worth the price of admission at Central Park
Anthony McDonald was the star man for Hearts as Craig Levein's side comfortably defeated Cowdenbeath, writes Craig Fowler
If you were unable to make it to Central Park last night, or just felt the idea of trekking through to Fife on a Tuesday evening to watch a 7.45pm kick-off in mid-July was just a tad outside your boundaries of what constitutes acceptable fandom, then it was simple enough to follow the game on BBC Radio Scotland as the commentary team, including former Jambos Neil McCann and Gary Naysmith, were in attendance. Alternatively, seeing as this is 2019 and we've long since accepted the fact that we're addicted to our mobile phones despite the havoc it wreaks with our collective and individual mental health, you could also follow the game on Twitter.
Regardless of whichever way you chose to keep abreast of the action from Cowdenbeath there would have been one name which kept popping up over and over again: Anthony McDonald.
The 18-year-old was the stand-out player for Craig Levein's side as they defeated their hosts in a game that finished 2-0 but was going on 10-0. On another day they would have inflicted the second double-digit hammering dished out by a Hearts team to the Blue Brazil in the space of just over four years, though several of the capital-based attackers appeared to leave their shooting boots at home.
Alas, it did not matter in the end. Craig Halkett bulleted the visiting side in front with a header on his debut before McDonald made sure of the points with a calm finish following an expertly worked move down the right that saw Sean Clare play in Steven MacLean to cross for the youngster.
It wasn't just his bizarrely unique ability to finish a chance that set McDonald apart from his peers. He was involved in so much of the action on the night. In short, he was the best player in off-white and jaggy light blue.
In the 13th minute he played in Conor Washington for a glorious chance, only for the striker to shoot at the goalkeeper. Three minutes later he almost sent a terrific bouncing ball toward the far corner, just missing the post by a couple of yards. After getting his goal he was involved in another excellent move, combining with MacLean before getting away a shot that rose over the crossbar.
Though Hearts would fade away in the second period it was McDonald who was at the heart of their bright beginning. Executing another perfectly-weighted through ball, this really ought to have led to Washington getting his first goal since signing for the club. Instead, Dario Zanatta - who too performed well on the night - decided to shoot at the goalkeeper instead of laying it on a plate for his more experienced team-mate, much to Washington's exasperation.
It was the measure of the Northern Irishman that he refused to hold a grudge, crossing for the Canadian in a better position moments latter after he had been put through once again by, yes, you guessed it - McDonald.
As the game neared injury time he almost got the second goal his inventive play would surely have deserved. Playing a one-two with substitute Uche Ikpeazu, he tried to lift it over Kevin Dabrowski, only for the goalkeeper to foil a Hearts player once again.
When travelling to a League Two side in an early season cup competition and seeing your team race into a seemingly unassailable lead early in the match, there needs to be another form of entertainment outwith the evaporated tension of the contest to hold your immersion. For Hearts fans on Tuesday, Anthony McDonald was that entertainment.