Hearts 2, Ross County 1. Scottish Cup. Saturday, January 5, 2002
Hearts savoured sweet revenge over First Division Ross County with a less-than-impressive victory at Tynecastle to book their place in the fourth round of the Tennent’s Scottish Cup.
The Premier League outfit suffered a miserable penalty shoot-out defeat in the CIS Insurance Cup at Dingwall in September. But it was all smiles for the 1998 winners as fans’ favourite Ricardo Fuller scored an all-important double.
Mark Perry made it a nervous last couple of minutes for Hearts, but they held out.
The supporters were expecting a classic with Ross having also beaten Dundee and taken Rangers close, but it was never to be.
The writing was on the wall early on as the visitors defended deep while Hearts struggled to break them down.
Thomas Flogel should have done better in the very first minute after Steve Fulton’s free-kick had been directed into his path, but he smashed his right-foot effort high over the crossbar.
Hearts struggled to get their passing game going while the visitors were depending on hopeful balls down field without much success.
But Hearts did go close in the 15th minute through young striker Gary Wales.
Flogel slid the ball through to the young striker whose shot took a deflection off the leg of Ian Maxwell before being acrobatically tipped over the crossbar by County goalkeeper Tony Bullock.
The Austrian midfielder then almost broke the deadlock in the 24th minute after a good move by the home side.
Flogel found Fuller in the box and he spun to unleash a powerful left-foot shot which Bullock pushed out into his path, but he fired the ball just over from close range.
But the home side were let off the hook moments later after a blunder by rookie goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie. Steven Pressley knocked the ball back for a routine clearance but he screwed his effort straight to striker Karim Boukraa, who panicked and fluffed his effort with McKenzie stranded.
Both sets of fans welcomed the first-half whistle, but the early signs after the break were far from encouraging.
Wales spotted the run from midfield of Stephen Simmons, on for Flogel, and found him but the youngster’s first touch was not the best and the ball ran through to Bullock in the Ross goal.
However, when the game needed something special to brighten it up among so much mediocrity Fuller supplied it with a great solo effort in the 51st minute.
The on-loan striker picked up Simmons’ pass and went inside two Ross players before coolly sliding the ball beyond Bullock for his seventh goal of the season.
Moments later and McKenzie made amends for his earlier lapse in concentration by saving a fierce right-foot shot from Alex Bone inside the box.
Hearts looked to grab the killer goal and Fuller was enjoying his hero status by pulling out some of his tricks.
Wales then saw glory in his sights in the 66th minute, but pulled his long-range shot wide, while Tommi Gronlund’s fierce right-foot effort was again acrobatically tipped over by Bullock.
Simmons could have wrapped up the victory with 18 minutes remaining after being put clear through by the impressive Fuller, but his unconvincing effort was saved by Bullock.
However, Fuller again made no mistake in the 77th minute after being picked out by Fulton as he fired an emphatic right-foot shot past the despairing dive of Bullock.
Perry gave the visitors a consolation in the last minute after a goalmouth scramble.
Hearts: McKenzie, McKenna, Pressley, Webster, Maybury, Gronlund, Fulton, Flogel (Simmons 38), Mahe, Wales, Fuller. Subs Not Used: Gordon, Severin, Boyack, Kirk. Subs not used: Gordon, Boyack, Severin, Kirk.
Ross County: Bullock, Perry, Irvine, Maxwell, Hastings, McCormick (Hislop 49), Anselin (Cowie 69), Ferguson, Robertson, Boukkra (Prest 60), Bone. Subs Not Used: Gomzalez, Gethins. Subs not used: Gonzalez, Gethins.
Ref: K Toner.