IT IS a new season but this was a movie that had been seen before. So often last term teams had travelled to Tynecastle buoyed by butterflies and boyhood dreams and they had put up a stubborn defence. But while Hearts huffed and puffed a bit in the League Cup tie last night, they once again found a way through and once they did they displayed very little mercy.
Three goals in four second -half minutes shattered Arbroath, cancelling out David Gold’s 40th minute opener and burying any hopes the League Two side had of pulling of the first cup shock of the season.
For some these early ties can be tricky. Still shy of full match sharpness, the circumstances can be a leveller but Hearts are a team used to dealing with the pressure of the favourites tag and having experienced a season in the Championship where they became the most desired scalp, they are also a side adept at finding ways to break down stodgy and dogged lower league opposition.
Last term served as a education. Up against part-time teams and relative minnows, they showed a patience and resolve and most of all penetration when it mattered. It allowed them to romp the title race and they were happy to reprise that act at Tynecastle last night.
The 6,000-plus home fans were less happy and, incredibly, some muffled boos even accompanied the side off at half-time.
At that stage it was proving a dream night for David Gold, who despite serving his time as a Hibs trainee has always harboured the desire to run out at Tynecastle and score in front of the Gorgie crowd. The fact that he managed it while playing for Arbroath against his boyhood heroes did nothing to dull his celebrations.
The goal, five minutes before the interval, came after Sergio Cecilia Alvarez slipped the ball into the striker’s path and Gold slotted a low, clinical finish across Jack Hamilton and inside the far post. It was a moment to treasure for Gold, it was a boot up the backside for their Premiership hosts.
After a brisk start where they were denied by some defiant Arbroath defending, the visitors putting in timely blocks in the box and denying Sam Nicholson, Alim Ozturk and youngster Sean McKirdy in the first few minutes, Hearts dropped the tempo to something approaching pedestrian and allowed Todd Lumsden’s men to get a greater foothold in the game as they passed the ball about nicely moving forward and remained organised and disciplined in defence, with keeper Allan Fleming pulling off a great save from Osman Sow in the 44th minute, to push the ball away from goal.
Gold is a good friend of Hearts’ Sam Nicholson and the Hearts youngster obviously didn’t fancy being the butt of the jokes had Hearts not found a way back into the tie and he was a key performer as Hearts quickly moved through the gears and found a second-half performance that illustrated the gap between the teams’ league standings.
There was great determination to find a way through in the minutes before the interval but it was only after Hearts returned full of intent, back out on the turf sharp after a barely needed half-time discussion, that they stepped up. They knew that for all Arbroath deserved plaudits, they had sold themselves short in the first 45 minutes.
They almost made life even more difficult for themselves but Lewis Coult failed to convert a great 51st minute opportunity. Captain Alim Ozturk had slipped up to gift him that chance and he responded a few minutes later by setting up Jordan McGhee for the equaliser.
That was in the 57th minute and within the next few minutes the visitors went from being a goal ahead to trailing 3-1. With Nicholson in the mood, Arbroath full-back Craig Wilson bore the brunt of it. The full-back, who had been solid, was suddenly being turned inside out by the Hearts winger , who played the ball across the area for Sow to slide in and find the net.
Both players were involved in the third goal two minutes later, Nicholson fouled in the box by Wilson and Sow doing what was necessary from the penalty spot.
Arbroath pulled one back in the 85th minute courtesy of substitute Martin Graham but, after forcing a couple of saves from Fleming, Hearts rallied again and a stoppage time goal from Hearts sub Jamie Walker gave the scoreline the polish the Hearts contingent wanted. It will be a different task against St Johnstone on Sunday as Robbie Nielson’s men embark on their Premiership season but in doing all that was required of them last night they showed that they haven’t forgotten all the lessons learned last term.
Hearts: Hamilton, Paterson, McGhee, Ozturk, McHattie, King, McKirdy, Gomis, Nicholson, Sow, Oliver. Subs: Igor Rossi, Alexander, Walker, Delgado, Anderson, Buchanan, Liam Smith.
Arbroath: Fleming, Craig Wilson, Hay, Little, Lowdon, Linn, Clarke, Stewart, Cecilia, Coult, Gold. Subs: Munro, Reid, Hester, Johnstone, Brodie, McWalter, Grehan.