Credit to a (very) young Hearts team because they did not completely crumble despite going behind as early as the seventh minute. But Livingston took full advantage of the decision by Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson to give youth a fling last night, running out easy winners by three goals in the end. There were five debutants in the Hearts starting line-up and three more made their first appearance for the Tynecastle side as substitutes in the second-half.
Scorers: Livingston - White (6), (76), Hippolyte (81), Robertson (84); Hearts - Talbot (og 90)
Might it be mischievous to suggest this was a satisfactory outcome for all concerned? Livingston progress to the last eight – the draw is made at Lesser Hampden today – and Hearts are left to fight other, more important battles. However, Neilson would prefer to have avoided conceding three goals late in the game. The visitors did manage a consolation strike when Jason Talbot put through his own goal in injury time.
Jordan White opened the scoring for the home team and then added a second with a header in the 76th minute. Substitutes Myles Hippolyte and David Robertson added the third and fourth strikes in the last ten minutes as Hearts struggled to maintain the high energy of earlier in the game.
A very good Hearts travelling support seemed slightly nonplussed by the team that Neilson selected. It included no fewer than ten changes from Sunday’s 2-1 derby victory over Hibernian. Jordan McGhee might well have wondered what he had done wrong to be the only one from the weekend’s starting XI asked to report back for duty again last night.
His colleagues were a mixture of those with some experience and those with absolutely none at all. There were faces familiar from last season. Brad MacKay wore the captain’s armband while Scott Robinson returned to action after suspension.
Others were being offered some valuable top team experience for the first time. Emergency loan goalkeeper Lee Hollis, at 28, is a comparative veteran, but Liam Gordon, Angus Beith, Liam Smith and Liam Henderson were making their first senior appearances. On the bench were a troupe of teenagers and also Bryn Halliwell, the former Partick Thistle goalkeeper signed on a short-term loan deal from junior side Sauchie.
Hollis was pushed into action last night after watching from the bench on Sunday as 20-year-old Jack Hamilton, cup-tied last night, impressed in goal. Hearts have now started four successive competitive games with four different goalkeepers. Some rustiness was apparent on Hollis’ part as he was forced to retrieve the ball from the net after only seven minutes.
He collided with Gary Glen on the edge of his six-yard box when attempting to deal with Callum Fordyce’s header back in after a corner. White did well to react to the loose ball and converted from a tight angle to put Livingston ahead. One unwanted consequence of going in front was that the injury sustained by the former Hearts player Glen saw him replaced eight minutes before half-time.
Hearts took time to settle, as expected. Both Robinson and Gordon saw shots well saved by Jamieson but then came a spell when Livingston should have extended their lead. David Robertson, who came on for Glen, headed weakly past a post after a good cross from Kyle Jacobs on the stroke of half-time.
White should have struck again in the second-half after a good cross from the right. That Livingston took so long to make the tie safe was a badge of honour for the young bucks in maroon to wear.
But White scored with a header with 14 minutes left and then Hippolyte struck a third with a well-taken left-footed shot from the edge of the box. Roberston waltzed through the middle to make it four as the game opened up. Those Hearts fans still inside the ground in the dying moments saw Talbot turn the ball into his own goal after a cross from Henderson.
Livingston: Jamieson, Jacobs, Talbot, Jacobs, Gallagher, Fordyce, McKenna, O’Brien (Beaumont, 85), White, Glen (Robertson, 37), Mullen (Hippolyte, 78). Unused subs: Sives, Grant, Burchill, Rutherford
Hearts: Hollis, Smith, Gordon (Roy, 65), Henderson, McGhee, McKay, Keatings, Robinson, Oliver (Buchanan, 56), Beith (McKirdy, 85), Smith. Unused subs: Scott, Flanagan, Smith, Halliwell