Three Hearts-related observations from the Jambos' Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness ...
Zlamal's key intervention
It was Hearts' last semi-final, the Betfred Cup defeat by Celtic, when the wheels started to come off for goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal. Steady up until that October match at BT Murrayfield, the Czech goalkeeper made an error that led to Celtic's second goal. His performance levels dipped thereafter, culminating in a harrowing night in December during the 5-0 defeat by Livingston. Zlamal had to wait until February to regain the gloves from Colin Doyle, but since then he's been flawless. His save from Joe Chalmers' second-half free-kick was outstanding. Chalmers hit it well from 20 yards, but the 33-year-old positioning and footwork were excellent and he showed strong fingers to tip the ball on to the bar. Had that gone in, the score would've been 1-1 and the match would've taken a different route. As it was, Zlamal's wonder-save allowed Hearts to kick on and put the tie to bed. His contribution cannot be overstated.
It's important to single out Jake Mulraney for praise. For periods of the first half, he was the one of the few Hearts players willing to get on the ball and test the Inverness rearguard. He gave Shaun Rooney a torrid time at right-back and in the second half was clever enough to link up with Olly Lee for a short corner that led to Hearts' opener. The Irishman's Hearts career began quietly, but the winger is growing into his role at Tynecastle. He is the quickest player in the squad and his final delivery is getting better each game. He will be an important player as the season draws to a close and manager Craig Levein - who singled him out for praise in his post-match press conference - will hope his upward trajectory continues.
Something to play for
Hearts now have five Ladbrokes Premiership matches left. Qualifying for the Europa League seems unlikely through that route considering they are eight points adrift of third place. However, each and every one of those matches are going to be vital for a Hearts squad who are now playing for their cup final places. Nobody will want to miss out on the May 25 occasion and that should lead to some strong performances. Hearts will want to approach the tie against either Celtic or Aberdeen with momentum. The next five matches - Rangers (h), Hibs (a), Aberdeen (a), Kilmarnock (h) and Celtic (a) - now have extra importance.