How Hearts played their trump card to edge past Livingston

Having been held for 120 minutes Hearts were able to play their trump card in the penalty shoot out to ensure it will be their name and not Livingston's in Monday night’s quarter-final draw.

Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon saves Ayo Obileye's decisive penalty in the shootout. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon saves Ayo Obileye's decisive penalty in the shootout. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The home side enjoyed plenty of possession but David Martindale’s well-organised and assured side controlled the areas they were allowed to play and kept them contained.

And, lacking the telling burst of intent or penetrating final pass, they were like a pissed group of blokes trying to get into a nightclub - they kept trying but deep down they knew their efforts were probably futile.

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So it proved. The original 90 minutes came and went, with a couple of chances for Livingston, which Bruce Anderson should have made more of. Ellis Simms did likewise at the other end, with both looking back on at least one occasion each and maybe wishing they had squared the ball rather than trying to better quality keepers from tight angles.

Between them these teams had contested the last three finals, with Livingston losing out last term, and Hearts left to lick their wounds in the two prior to that.

It underlined their desire to progress deep in the competition and, given Hearts are currently settled as the third best team in the country, but have had a couple of stumbles of late, and Livingston have been one of the in-form teams since the top tier resumed duties after the winter break, the tie was always going to tight.

Simms was chosen ahead of top scorer Liam Boyce to spearhead the attack and he had a volleyed attempt blocked in the opening few minutes. It was a sign of what was to come, as Livingston closed down everything, crowding out any player who looked like they might be able to get a shot off, and offering Max Stryjek maximum cover.

Hearts were the team applying the pressure in the later stages of normal time and they kept that up in extra time but it could have been a different outcome if Joel Nouble’s ball in for Scott Pittman with 18 minutes remaining had been been converted. Instead the midfielder’s effort from the edge of the box was deflected up and away from Gordon but the Hearts goalie was relieved to get it on the way back after it came off the inside of the post.

Livingston also had the ball in the net late on but the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.

But Hearts also had chances, with Stryjek stretching to tip a John Souttar header over the bar and foiling Peter Haring with a glanced attempt.

Hearts were going for it, with Souttar looking like a man who would love to sign off his Hearts career with a cup win in May and there were also a couple of handball penalty claims. It became clear why the Gorgie players were so keen for one as they clinically dispatched each spot-kick as the contest reached its conclusion.

With the Tynecastle crowd teetering on the brink, John Souttar, Peter Haring, Ben Woodburn and Simms showed character to set up and convert each effort.

And, as Christian Montano’s effort had already rebounded off the post, that left the stage set for Gordon to get his team over the line with the decisive save from Ayo Obileye.

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