How Hearts clinched Scottish Cup semi-final berth against St Mirren in thrilling cup tie - impervious Craig Halkett, intelligent attackers

Cooking up a tasty cup tie, this Scottish Cup quarter-final between Hearts and St Mirren at Tynecastle boiled and bubbled as both attacks threw everything into the mix.

Hearts' Aaron McEneff, left, celebrates with Ellis Simms after making it 3-2 against St Mirren.
Hearts' Aaron McEneff, left, celebrates with Ellis Simms after making it 3-2 against St Mirren.

Rarely calming down to a simmer, St Mirren battled back from a 2-0 deficit to level the scoreline before Hearts turned up the heat even further and grabbed two further goals to prevail 4-2 and book another trip to Hampden for the semi-finals of this year’s Scottish Cup.

It was a well-fought contest and one that the home side had gone into as favourites based on their loftier position in the cinch Premiership and the fact that they had triumphed in each of the three league meetings this term.

But if they needed a reminder that they were not at full strength, it came in the opening minutes when Craig Halkett went down with a head knock.

Connor Ronan levelled matters for St Mirren with a sensational dipping strike.

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Playing out the rest of the game with a head bandage, he was the on-field embodiment of the lengthy injury list that had forced a shake-up of personnel and formations.

Without John Souttar, they moved to a back four, and on a night where both attacks seemed to be sponsored by Duracell, the Hearts backline, like their St Mirren counterparts, had a busy time trying to repel the hungry strikers.

In the end the home ranks proved more intransigent at the back and more clinical up front.

Played at a high tempo, Hearts set out their stall early on, but Eamonn Brophy’s effort in the seventh minute let them know that they wouldn’t have it all their own way.

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Beni Baningime opened the scoring for Hearts - his first goal for the club.

In their recent league meeting, Robbie Neilson’s men had enjoyed the greater dominance and although another of the key contributors that day, Cammy Devlin, was another absentee, they asserted themselves once again in a first half that raged from one end to the other.

In the 16th minute Barrie McKay linked up with Liam Boyce and picked out Ellis Simms in a central position. St Mirren keeper Jak Almwick blocked the original effort and follow up from the Everton loanee, but couldn’t gather and Beni Baningime stabbed home from close range for his first goal for the club.

While Greg Kiltie, Jordan Jones and Brophy continued to press, Baningime and Peter kept a close eye on things in the middle of the park. But if that gave Hearts the platform to build on, it was the energy and football intelligence of men like Boyce and Simms, plus Ben Woodburn and McKay on the flanks, that ultimately proved too hot for their guests to handle.

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Boyce and Woodburn were instrumental in the second goal, which came in the 30th minute. Attacking at pace it was an incisive move which involved a perfectly threaded ball from Boyce out to Woodburn and a excellently executed, first-time ball into the box from Woodburn. There Haring ran in and side footed it past Alnwick to give Hearts what looked like a comfortable lead,

St Mirren refused to lie down, though, and came back at them with a goal from Brophy in the 36th minute and a stunning strike from Connor Ronan in the second half after the Gorgie side failed to fully clear their area.

There would have been no surprise if the game had been pushed into extra time, but second-half sub Aaron McEneff made it 3-2 just seconds after he replaced Woodburn and that 68th-minute goal would have been enough to see them through. However, aware of the threat St Mirren pose, the capital side made sure of it when Simms slotted the fourth beyond Alnwick in the 85th minute to ease any tension in the stands, ensuring his team are the first of the teams to book a place in the semi-finals and wrap up a thrilling cup tie in style.

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