Tynecastle boss Stevie Vinter admitted his team didn’t create enough goalscoring opportunities as they exited the Football Nation Qualifying Cup quarter-finals after a 2-0 loss to Vale of Leithen.
This was the second attempt at finding a winner after last month’s tie was abandoned at half-time due to deteriorating conditions in the Borders.
And, with the weather again causing havoc last week, Saturday’s encounter was switched to Spartans’ Ainslie Park to ensure the match went ahead.
Chris Anderson’s men, though, didn’t look out of place on the artificial surface, second-half efforts from Andrew Martin and substitute Thomas Paterson securing a tasty last-four showdown with reigning East of Scotland League champions Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.
Vinter who led his side to Alex Jack Cup glory in October, was disappointed his players didn’t show enough belief to trouble Ross Gilpin in the Vale goal.
“They were hard to break down and I knew they would be with Chris involved,” Vinter said. “We just didn’t have that wee bit of spark in the final third that can win games. We had a great chance just before they scored but these are the fine margins at this level of football.
“Effectively those two minutes in the second half when we conceded has ended up costing us the game. The tie was over after that as we seemed a bit deflated. I thought we controlled the match a lot in terms of possession but we didn’t have the same cutting edge as we normally do.
“You’re always disappointed when you concede goals in the manner that we did but we’re not going to point the finger at anyone as it’s a team game. We’ll dust ourselves down and move on.
“This cup was a focus for us as we’d done well in the competition up until now. The first game before it was postponed I thought we were on top so it’s maybe a missed opportunity for us.”
Despite the setback, Vinter is confident his players can challenge for further honours this season.
“The league table is a bit daft just now as you’ve got teams that have played 15 and we’ve only completed nine. We’ve lost a couple of games but we’ve already won the Alex Jack Cup and also qualified for next season’s Scottish Cup. We’re still involved in a couple of other cups so we’ve still got a lot to play for that’s for sure,” he added.
Vale were fast out of the blocks and goalkeeper Robert Watt had to be alert to turn a Martin effort behind inside 60 seconds. From the resulting corner, Alistair Smith got his head to the ball ahead of a static Tynie defence but Watt was again positioned well to keep the ball out.
Smith was denied by Watt for a second time just four minutes later as Vale looked to capitalise on their bright start.
However, as the half wore on Tynecastle began to assert themselves more, although too often their decision making the final third allowed the Vale backline to regroup.
Cameron Dawson dragged a shot wide of the target before Martin came within a couple of inches of finding the opener ten minutes after the restart.
The winger wasn’t to be denied, though, as with 17 minutes remaining he found space in the penalty area to drive a shot beyond Watt and into the bottom left corner.
Vale secured their passage through just two minutes later, Greg Page’s hesitancy allowing Sean Stewart through on goal and the striker unselfishly fed Paterson who slotted home.
Vale of Leithen: Gilpin, Alexander, A Smith, Lynch, Blaikie, Hunter, Martin (Scott-Mercer 80), Allan, Dawson, Stewart, L Smith (Paterson 73). Subs: McBride, Raiker, Lewis, Graham, Brady.
Tynecastle: Watt, Grant, Page, Ferguson, Mitchell (Polson 72), Crabbe, Greig, Robinson, Huxford, Costelloe (Roue 85), McIntyre. Subs: Kelly, Leslie, McMullen.