Classy Hearts ensure no repeat of Brora Scottish Cup disaster with comprehensive win over Auchinleck - but without John Souttar

Hearts exorcised their non-league demons and secured comfortable passage into the Scottish Cup fifth round, with a winning conclusion to their decade-long trilogy against Auchinleck Talbot.

Goals from Andy Halliday and Liam Boyce in the first half took the sting out of any notion of the sort of cup upset Hearts had suffered to Highland League Brora Rangers last season and set up a place in this evening's draw. Further efforts from Boyce, Peter Haring and Alex Cochrane completed a comfortable afternoon for Robbie Neilson’s men.

Excitement was high in the Ayrshire village with BBC cameras in town ahead of Hearts’ visit – the first to Beechwood – but, as is often the case with a three-part series, this was one too many, and a step too far for the West of Scotland League side.

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Hearts were without John Souttar – injured and amidst ongoing negotiations to potentially expedite his move to Rangers – but still gave it big billing, naming a strong side with last season’s Brora shock still fresh in the memory. There was little suggestion of one in Ayrshire, and Hearts had professionally put the game to bed by the interval.

Talbot started sharply. Bryan Boylan acrobatically sent a shot over within a minute after a burst down the left-side but it was the most the home side offered.

Hearts made the breakthrough their early play deserved in the 14th minute when Barrie McKay floated the ball into the middle of the penalty box. Halliday had drifted into space between defenders to nod Hearts ahead.

Scorer turned provider a minute later for Nathaniel Atkinson to ease a side-foot volley at goal, beaten away by Andy Leishman, a veteran of this fixture and goalkeeper for Talbot’s two previous trips to Tynecastle.

There was no repeating his heroics of the first as Hearts imposed themselves, content to conduct the slow first-half tempo after Talbot’s frenetic, and threatening, opening burst. The hosts chased and harried but couldn’t get to grips with the movement of the 2020 finalists, and immediate high-press of Boyce and Mackay in attack.

Celebrates the second of his double in Hearts' 5-0 win. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Hearts were denied a penalty for handball and had another two in the net ruled out for offside, incorrectly as it turned out, but Talbot’s charmed life only lasted so long with so many questions being asked of the West of Scotland League side’s defence.

Boyce lifted the ball against Chris Stafford’s arm and Greg Aitken awarded the penalty this time, in the 38th minute. The striker scored, more to confirm Hearts’ dominance than ease any notion of nerves, and doubled his tally by turning in a cross from his fellow scorer Halliday on 52 minutes.

Talbot could have pulled a consolation back just a few minutes later. Craig Gordon slapped out a Jamie Glasgow drive for his first save of the game, and though the rebound fell kindly for Graham Wilson, he scooped it over the bar.

Talbot had drawn another blank against the Jambos, and were punished late on as Neilson’s side ensured the scoreline reflected the gulf between the sides.

Andy Halliday scores to make it 1-0 Hearts at Beechwood Park. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Substitute Aaron McEneff teed up Haring for the fourth before Atkinson skipped down the flank and laid on the fifth for Cochrane rushing in at the back post.

Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Kingsley, Haring, Boyce (Ginnelly 82), Atkinson, Devlin, Halliday (McEneff 68), Cochrane, Halkett, Mackay (Mackay-Steven 78).

Auchinleck: Leishman, Stafford, A.Wilson, McPherson, Robbie McCracken, Kieran Healy, Gareth Armstrong, G.Wilson (McDowall 68), Boylan (Mason 68), Keir Samson, Jamie Glasgow.

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Cammy Devlin and Keir Samon in action during the Scottish Cup 4th round match between Auchinleck Talbot and Hearts at Beechwood Park, on January 22, 2022, in Auchinleck, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
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