Andy Halliday scored Hearts’ opening goal and, supporting Liam Boyce to take down Auchinleck Talbot, and routinely opened up the non-league side’s defence with Barrie Mackay.
The midfielder’s versatility has been frequently used to Robbie Neilson’s benefit and deployed in an advanced midfield role, he turned in one of his most dominant performances to avoid any relapse of Hearts’ previous cup upset at Brora Rangers – plus an equally unexpected diving header.
“It’s certainly not something I’ve done too often in my career – or played No 10!” said Halliday. “Listen, I enjoy any time I get on the football pitch. We’ve maybe got 15/16 players in the squad so it’s not the biggest in the league. Any time I get the jersey it doesn’t really bother me where I play.
“In there myself, I thought it was important that I tried to create as many overloads as I could. Credit to our midfielders they found myself and Baz in there quite a bit. We managed to create quite a few chances.”
It was the sort of afternoon John Souttar would have revelled in – spraying passes, plenty of use of the ball. Not that fellow defender Craig Halkett didn’t, he cruised it like each of the visitors did and their dominance was reflected in the 74 per cent possession statistics in favour of Hearts. It may have been non-league opposition hosting the third-placed team in the country, but Hearts know all too well the perils posed when visiting these tight, raucous little grounds. Halliday does too.
“Not only did we have to look at Brora last year, we had to look at the shock [Auchinleck] produced against Hamilton,” Halliday added. “We had to be wary of that. We paid them as much respect as possible and went as professional as we could to make sure we’re in the next round.
“I have a lot of respect for junior football. My little brother plays for Neilston and I try and watch them as much as I can – it’s the foundation of our game.
“Growing up my grandad was a Benburb fan so we’d watch them as much as possible and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It’s good that these teams now have a chance to progress. For a number of years, in my opinion, the pyramid was pretty flawed. Since then we’ve seen a lot of teams progressing.
“You only have to look at Kelty and how they’ve done since they came into the senior leagues.”
Kelty also progressed on Saturday and join Hearts in the last 16, the Jambos – with or without Souttar – will host Livingston next month.
“The gaffer and Joe Savage have made it pretty clear we need to strengthen in this window and I agree,” added Halliday.
“As a football club we want to compete in every competition we can. For myself, I’ve lost two finals so that’s a bitter taste in my mouth.
“I want to try to get one under my belt. There are five hurdles in the cup and we’ve managed to get through the first.”