PREMIERSHIP sides Hearts, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell progressed to the quarter-finals of the League Cup last night on an entertaining evening of action that saw 19 goals, two hat-tricks and a penalty shoot-out.
Hearts were made to work hardest for their victory, squeezing past Championship club Queen of the South 4-2 on penalties after the Tynecastle clash had finished 3-3 after extra-time.
Gary Locke’s men took the lead three times through Kevin McHattie, Jamie Hamill and Danny Wilson but were pegged back each time when Ryan McGuffie, Michael Paton and Chris Higgins hit the target for Queens. Dale Carrick fired the decisive penalty in the shoot-out to prolong Hearts’ cup run.
Scott Vernon’s second-half treble helped ensure Aberdeen did not suffer another embarrassing choke against lower-league opposition as Championship side Falkirk were thumped 5-0. Youngsters Joe Shaughnessy and Cammy Smith were also on target as the Dons made it five clean sheets in a row.
Vernon scored his first goal of the season in the 1-0 league win over Inverness on Saturday, and manager Derek McInnes said: “Scott’s scored four goals in 80 minutes of football now so he’s averaging a goal every 20 minutes now.
“You can’t ask for much more than that and he’s got a real spring in his step now.”
Dundee United also had a hat-trick hero in David Goodwillie as he hit the net three times in a 4-1 win over Partick Thistle. The on-loan striker from Blackburn Rovers was given a rare start and he repaid manager Jackie McNamara’s faith in style.
“I never doubted he was capable of that,” said McNamara of Goodwillie, who had only scored once in eight games since returning to Tannadice from Ewood Park in the summer. “I’m delighted for him. I hope scoring three goals can be a turning point for him. The fourth goal especially was a great finish. There’s been a lot of pressure on him to come up here and perform.”
Motherwell had it tougher at Almondvale but joined Morton, Hibs, St Johnstone, Inverness, Hearts, Dundee United and Aberdeen in this afternoon’s quarter-final draw thanks to a 2-1 win against Livingston.
Bob McHugh opened the scoring on 15 minutes and James McFadden scored midway through the second half, before the Championship side grabbed a last-minute consolation through Danny Denholm.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall said: “I think we did enough to win the game. I’m disappointed to lose the goal but overall we’re in the next round and that’s the main thing. Both strikers scored so that was great.”