East Fife 1 Heart of Midlothian 1 (East Fife win 7-6 on penalties)
Scottish League Cup – Group A – Saturday 27th July 2019 – New Bayview
Hearts duly qualified for the knock-out stages of the Betfred Scottish League Cup but, as their wont, did it the hard way. After Wednesday evening’s late late show against League Two Stenhousemuir at Tynecastle, Craig Levein’s side again struggled, this time against League One East Fife. The Fifers held their Premiership opponents to a 1-1 draw at 90 minutes before snatching the bonus point after winning the resultant penalty shoot-out 7-6.
After the midweek shenanigans, Hearts manager Craig Levein made sweeping changes to his team. Captain Christophe Berra, Andrew Irving, Jake Mulraney, Dario Zanatta and Uche Ikpeazu all came into the side as Hearts sought to win the group comfortably. But this is Hearts we’re talking about where doing things the hard way is second nature.
The visitors began decently enough with Jamie Walker and Christophe Berra having early chances. Indeed, it was Walker who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, tapping the ball home after fine play from Craig Halkett.
Ikpeazu saw his header saved from home keeper Long before the former Cambridge United player spurned another opportunity when he hit the side netting just before half time.
As has been the case with their other games in Section A, Hearts were struggling to make an impact, and no one was surprised when East Fife equalised ten minutes into the second half. A cross from Wallace was met by Duggan who drilled the ball past Hearts keeper Bobby Zlamal who perhaps should have done better.
And that was the end of the scoring although Hearts Steven MacLean really should have won the game for the visitors when he missed a tantalising cross from Jake Mulraney and a golden chance went abegging.
The point for Hearts was enough to see them qualify for the next round but the afternoon was tainted somewhat when East Fife won the resultant penalty shoot-out 7-6 – Hearts Aaron Hickey missing the Gorgie side’s final spot kick – to earn the bonus point. Hearts unconvincing performances will mean they are unseeded when the draw for the knock-out stage takes place, meaning they could face Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen or city rivals Hibernian.
The Hearts support weren’t slow in venting their anger towards Craig Levein. On the basis of Hearts Betfred Cup displays thus far, one suspects Hearts supporters will be displaying such demonstrative behaviour on a regular basis this season.
It may be a long campaign ahead for the long-suffering Maroon Army. Ann Budge please take note.
East Fife: Long, Dunsmore, Higgins, Murdoch, Dunlop, Slattery, Wallace, Agnew, Hunter (R. Davidson, 63′), Watt (Dowds, 79′), Duggan.
Hearts: Zlamal, M. Smith, Berra, Clare, Walker, Mulraney, Ikpeazu (MacLean, 80′), Halkett, Zanatta (Keena, 63′), Irving (Bozanic, 68′), Hickey.
Referee: David Munro
Top man: Craig Halkett