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21 of 036 Gordon Smith [3] 84SC H

Heart of Midlothian 1-0 Auchinleck Talbot

From Hearts Media at Tynecastle.

A late Gordon Smith strike handed Hearts a narrow 1-0 victory against Auchinleck Talbot in Saturday's William Hill Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie at Tynecastle.

Hearts miserable fortune from the penalty spot continued as Fraser Mullen saw his first half effort saved by Andrew Leishman, the latter making several key saves during the first 45 minutes.

Just as it seemed Auchinleck were about to hold out for the replay, however, Gordon Smith rifled in a low drive from twenty yards following a mix up in the Talbot defence late on in the game.

The Jambos starting eleven was almost unrecognisable to the one which registered the emphatic victory over Hibs last Sunday. Andy Webster, Ian Black and Scott Robinson were the only survivors as Paulo Sergio rang the changes with a mixture of youth and experience.

Jamie MacDonald was given the nod in goal, whilst there were also starting spots for Arvydas Novikovas and Andrew Driver. Meanwhile youngster Mullen was handed his first team debut, whilst Smith was tasked with leading the attacking line.

Hearts were first to threaten when Driver weaved his way into the left side of the box before falling to the ground. As the home crowd called for a penalty, however, referee John Beaton reached for his pocket as he booked the winger for diving.

The Jam Tarts soon began to peg the visitors back and were given a chance to break the deadlock in the 18th minute when Gordon Pope brought down Novikovas inside the box.

Mullen bravely stepped up to the mark on his first outing, but Andrew Leishman dived at full stretch to his right and tipped the ball round the post to deny the debutant.

The save meant that Hearts' incredible run of penalty misses, which now reads four in seven games, continued much to the bemusement of both the players and the Tynecastle faithful.

Sergio's men continued to push forward but struggled to take their chances; Webster flashed a header wide from six yards out on the half hour mark. Rudi Skacel was the next to step forward as he cut in from the right before dispatching a snapshot which had Leishman scrambling on the goal line.

With the away side sitting deep with five in midfield , the majority of play was taking place inside their half but last season's Scottish Junior Cup winners were proving to be a formidable opponent.

Leishman in goals enjoyed a fine first half, as did his defensive line with Ricky Robb clearing the ball off the line after Novikovas darted in at the back post and attempted to poke the ball into the net shortly before the interval.

Sergio made two changes during the break, one of them forced as Danny Grainger limped off as the half time whistle sounded. He was replaced by another academy product in the shape of Jordan Morton, whilst birthday boy David Templeton took the place of Novikovas out left.

Hearts continued where they left off in the second period as they set up camp in the Auchinleck half, yet their short passing game was all too often stifled by the compact and alert Talbot midfield.

Hearts were forced into making their final change of the afternoon shortly after the hour mark as Darren Barr went down following a nasty clash of heads in the Talbot box.

The defender had to be stretchered off, which subsequently caused a significant stoppage in play before Gary Glen eventually replaced him on 70 minutes as the Jambos switched to three at the back.

Skacel then should have opened the scoring minutes later as he received the ball unmarked in the box before producing a finish on the turn, but his effort flew straight at the keeper who punched it clear for a corner.

The Czech went close again on 80 minutes as his shot from 20 yards took a deflection, but the Jambos still couldn't find a way past the excellent Talbot keeper.

With seven minutes remaining, however, Tynecastle breathed a sigh of relief as Smith put the Jambos in front.

A long ball into the Talbot box caused a mix up between Leishman and his defender, causing the ball to spill out to the 20 yard mark, allowing Smith to confidently steer a low drive into the empty net.

Templeton could have put the tie to bed a few minutes later as he latched on to an exquisite diagonal ball from Driver but Leishman once again produced a top class save to deny the birthday boy from close range.

The large travelling support were soon encouraged by the announcement of eight minutes of injury time, largely due to the treatment given to Barr earlier in the half.

They were on their feet four minutes into added time as Pope put the ball past MacDonald but celebrations were short lived as the linesmen flagged for offside.

Hearts comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to secure passage into the fifth round, although they were made to work hard for their victory against a well organised Auchinleck side.

Hearts: MacDonald; Grainger(Morton 45), Webster, Barr(Glen 70), Mullen; Driver, Black, Robinson, Skacel, Novikovas(Templeton 45); Smith. Subs not used: Ridgers, Obua.

Auchinleck: Leishman; McGoldrick, Pope, Pettigrew, Robb; White(Park 78), Young, Faulds(Slavin 71), Milliken(McCann 45); Spence, Latta. Subs not used: McGarrity, Gillies.

Referee: John Beaton

Top man: Ian Black

Hearts World

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