Hearts were pushed all the way by League Two Cowdenbeath but in the end did enough to secure a slender 1-0 win in the League Cup.
The Tynecastle outfit struggled to break down the sturdy home side in the first half. As the second half wore on it looked as if Cowdenbeath were on track to secure a brilliant result but Craig Halkett headed Hearts into a 1-0 lead 12 minutes from time to secure three maroon points.
Hearts headed into the Bayview clash off the back of a 1-0 victory on a return to competitive action against Inverness. The Blue Brazil didn’t need to go seeking problems before this one, losing 2-0 to East Fife and having parts of their stadium damaged by flooding.
It’s why this was played at the home of East Fife but that didn’t rattle Cowdenbeath one bit. Whilst Hearts did start on the front foot, Gary Bollan’s side matched Robbie Neilson’s during the entire opening 45.
A big penalty claim was had for the home team six minutes in, Craig Barr going down in the box but claims were waved away, despite the protests of the home team. It was all that really happened in the opening 20 minutes.
That was until Cowdenbeath had another great opportunity, this time Ross Pollock going close with a headed effort. Hearts were dominating the ball but failed to create much outside a couple of corner opportunities in the first half.
Improvement was needed in the second but the Jambos may have felt a penalty decision had gone against them too. Preston North End loanee Josh Ginnelly drove the box and was brought down inside it but not with enough contact to be given as a penalty.
Jordan Roberts was next to go close as he blazed a header over from point-blank range. It was one a of a few clear chances Hearts were allowed as Cowdenbeath continued to frustrate their visitors.
Roberts missed another chance as Hearts started to really pile on the pressure, Craig Wighton first missing a header before the Englishman fired wide. Eventually, the Gorgie side would break down the Cowdenbeath door.
Jamie Walker launched a pinpoint cross into the box, Halkett throwing himself at the ball to beat Ross Sinclair with 78 minutes on the clock. It was a cruel blow for the Blue Brazil who had put so much into the match. There was almost a second for the visitors in stoppage time too but Walker was denied a goal after Sinclair saved his penalty kick following a foul in the box.
But Hearts’ pressure paid off in the end and they made it two wins from two at the start of their League Cup campaign. Here are three things we learned.
Dusting off the cobwebs
It wasn’t a great afternoon for Neilson and his side, who struggled to click into top gear on their travels to Methil. Nothing really came off for them in attack, perhaps missing a talisman-like figure in Liam Boyce, who is with Northern Ireland on international duty.
They would rather a performance like this happen here than in the Championship, but Neilson will be eager for things to go up a gear or two next week against Dundee. That said, Hearts will be satisfied to secure the three points despite not playing at their best.
Bollan will be brimming with pride after this fantastic showing against Championship opposition. Hearts were left frustrated for large parts of the afternoon.
The Blue Brazil threw everything on the line in defence and even looked to play when they had brief spells of possession. It will be encouragement ahead of their League Two season.
One positive for Neilson and Hearts from this encounter was the debut of young midfielder, Scott McGill. The 18-year-old was making his first start for the Jambos and didn’t look out of place.
He was calm on the ball and put his feet into tackles effectively when required. McGill will no doubt have given Neilson something to think about ahead of the upcoming Championship start.