Saturday 29 July 2017, 15.00, Tynecastle Park

More action from the Scottish League Cup with the Group B clash between Scottish Premier League Heart of Midlothian and Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic.

It was the first time we’d seen Hearts since February and the team was almost unrecognisable from then.  Tasos Avlonitis, Alex Tziolis, Lennard Sowah, Andraz Struna, Moha Choulay, Dylan Bikey, Callum Paterson, Gavin Reilly, Juwon Oshaniwa and Sam Nicholson have all departed Tynecastle.

New additions are defenders Christophe Berra, who returns to the club from Ipswich Town, Michael Smith from Peterborough United and Rafal Grzelak from Polish side Korona Kielce.  New strikers are Cole Stockton from Tranmere Rovers and Kyle Lafferty from Norwich City, and left back Ashley Smith-Brown is on loan from Manchester City.  Liverpool’s Connor Randall signed on a season long loan the day before the game.

Jamie Walker was left out of the Hearts squad with reports that the manager didn’t feel he had impressed in recent games and in training, following his refusal to sign a new contract and a subsequent bid from Rangers had been turned down.

Manager Ian Cathro was finding himself under a bit of pressure.  A large chunk of Hearts fans were unhappy with his efforts last season after he took over from Robbie Neilson in December 2016 with Hearts in second place in the Premier League.  Hearts finished in fifth, on the back of a win-less run of six matches at the end of the season and the team won just four games in total after the turn of the year.

Their League Cup campaign saw them win by a solitary goal at League Two side Elgin City, then they had a routine 3-0 win at home to East Fife of League One.  A shock defeat at League Two’s Peterhead in the midweek before they faced Dunfermline saw them needing to win the final game to progress.

After attending Dunfermline’s opening game in the group, a 6-0 home win against Elgin City, they drew 0-0 at East Fife (gaining the extra point in the penalty shoot-out) and they beat Peterhead 5-1 at home.

Nicky Clark, who was so impressive in scoring four goals in the win against Elgin was missing through injury.

Tynecastle has proved to be a difficult ground for the Pars.  They last won there in February 1990.

Since we saw Dunfermline, they’d added former Hibs and Rangers striker Dean Shiels to the squad.

Peterhead, who still had a chance of qualifying for the knock-out stage, were facing Elgin City.

With a new main stand currently being built, only three sides of Tynecastle were being used and there were 8,404 in attendance.  Temporary dressing rooms and the players tunnel are in the opposite stand.

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Hearts’ Goncalves required treatment in 3 minutes after twisting his knee when his shot was deflected wide.

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In an even start, both sides were putting crosses into the opposition box, but defences were coping with little difficulty.

Dunfermline broke quickly in 19 minutes after a Hearts attack broke down.  Smith played the ball to McManus on half way, where a strong challenge from Berra took the ball away from him.  It ran to Cardle who played the ball in front of Smith down the right.  Cardle continue his run into the box and Smith picked him out, but his shot lacked power and Hamilton saved.

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Some quick passing by Hearts a minute later saw Goncalves knock the ball onto Cowie, who played a first time pass to Lafferty.  He returned the ball into Cowie’s path and he hit a low shot which Murdoch got fingers to, but couldn’t prevent going into the net to give Hearts the lead.

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The referee foiled Hearts next attack in 24 minutes, blowing up for a foul by Wedderburn when advantage would have better served the home side, with a pass after the whistle putting Cowie through on goal.

The home fans were even angrier in 28 minutes when the ref played advantage for Dunfermline after a Djoum foul on the half way line.  The ball was passed by Paton to Higginbotham who played the ball to the feet of Cardle on the edge of the Hearts box and he produced a great turn to get away from Souttar before curling the ball into the net past the despairing dive of Hamilton for the equaliser.

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Lafferty tried a spectacular volley at the Dunfermline goal in 29 minutes, but it was a few feet over the bar.

Dunfermline came forward again in 31 minutes, with Cardle playing the ball back from near the corner flag to Higginbotham on the corner of the box.  He stepped away from Cowie, but his shot was tame.

In 36 minutes Lafferty received a throw-in inside the Dunfermline box and went down under the challenge of Ashcroft.  He claimed for a penalty, but it would have been very soft if it had been awarded.

Smith did well on the left for Hearts in 39 minutes after exchanging passes with Goncalves.  He put a dangerous ball across goal, but the forwards were well away from getting a touch in the middle.

The ball was worked by Goncalves to Buaben on the edge of the Dunfermline box in 40 minutes, and his drive was pushed away by Murdoch. Cowie’s corner came back to him and his cross was headed towards his own goal by Morris.  Murdoch made a fantastic one handed save to deflect the ball onto the bar.  Djoum tried to get to the rebound but went down under Cardle’s challenge, but a corner, rather than a penalty was awarded.  Cowie’s corner from the other side saw Souttar’s header booted off the line by Cardle.

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All square at the break and very little between the teams.  Both sides had spells of good passing, but neither side had really been on top.  Hearts probably just about shaded the half, but had looked far from convincing.

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Some nice skill by Brandon in 47 minutes inside his own half saw him play the ball to Lafferty.  The striker spun and played the ball down the right for the advancing Brandon.  He played a clever ball into the path of Cowie on the right of the box, but Morris slid in to block his shot.

Neat build up play by Dunfermline in 49 minutes sent Smith away down the left.  He got the better of Souttar and ran into the box.  His cut back wasn’t the best, but Higginbotham managed to get there and tee up McManus, but Berra got there to block the shot.

With the rain lashing down, Higginbotham played a pass up the right wing for Smith to chase in 52 minutes and Souttar slipped as he went to challenge.  Smith played the ball to McManus in the Hearts box who stepped away from Berra and fired low past Hamilton to put the Pars in front.

Wedderburn was booked in 55 minutes for bringing down Goncalves.  Not the Dunfermline midfielder’s first foul.

A Hearts corner taken by Cowie in 57 minutes was met by the right foot of Lafferty, but Murdoch managed to block on the line before the defence cleared.

The Dunfermline fans shouted for a penalty in 71 minutes when Cardle’s cross into the box saw McManus go down with Berra the nearest Hearts player, but nothing was given.

A great ball from Cowie in 79 minutes released Goncalves on the left of the Dunfermline box in space and Stockton was in the middle.  Off balance, Goncalves tried to play the ball first time rather than use the space he had and he connected badly, and the ball ran straight to Murdoch.

That last bit of action saw the home fans streaming for the exits.  With Hearts needing a win to progress and looking very unlikely to get it, they had had enough.

In 85 minutes, a Martin corner saw Murdoch come out of his goal, but he didn’t get a hand to it and Lafferty struck the ball towards the Dunfermline goal.  It was past the keeper, but Wedderburn headed the ball behind.

From the corner on the other side, Martin found McGhee inside the box and he flicked the ball goalwards.  Murdoch was beaten again, but Cardle cleared off the line.

As Hearts were finally starting to put some pressure on, Lochhead was booked for pulling back Brandon.  Martin took the free kick from the right with 87 minutes gone and floated it into the box where the ball took a ricochet and Goncalves was first to react to knock the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box for the equaliser

Hearts continued to force the game and had a number of corners, but couldn’t get a clear chance.  Then, in 92 minutes, Martin struck probably his worst delivery since coming on from a corner and McManus at the front post miskicked as he tried to clear.  The ball came to Stockton with his back to goal and he spun 3 yards out under pressure from Wedderburn, but somehow fired wide of the post.

That was the last chance and Dunfermline held on for the draw they needed and Hearts were out.  Despite the group being decided (Peterhead won, but were unfortunate not to make it through as one of the best runners-up) a penalty shoot-out took place for the extra point.  The vast majority of the Hearts fans had already left.  The first penalty shoot-out ever that meant nothing?

Paton went first for Dunfermline and scored; McGhee was first for Hearts and fired over the bar; Lochhead scored for Dunfermline; Lafferty scored for Hearts; McManus had his penalty saved for Dunfermline; Martin put Hearts next one wide; Wedderburn scored for Dunfermline; Cowie hit his one over and Dunfermline had the extra point.

The remaining Hearts fans in the ground made their feelings known as the away fans celebrated.

Another bad day for Hearts with Brandon and Cowie the two who came out with some credit.  A lot of plusses for the Pars, with Williamson and Paton outstanding.  The strikers didn’t give the Hearts defenders a minute’s peace and the work rate of the whole team was excellent.

Camera problems just after half time meant that there were no second half photographs.

Full Time: Heart of Midlothian 2 Dunfermline Athletic 2 (Dunfermline win 3-1 on penalties.)

Admission: £15

Hearts: 13 Jack Hamilton, 24 Jordan McGhee, 4 John Souttar (Nowak 53), 6 Christophe Berra, 2 Michael Smith, 30 Jamie Brandon, 8 Prince Buaben (Stockton 60), 10 Arnaud Djoum (Martin 74), 15 Don Cowie, 77 Esmael Goncalves, 9 Kyle Lafferty.  Subs: 31 Viktor Noring, 3 Ashley Smith-Brown, 16 Connor Randall, 19 Krystian Nowak, 21 Maulary Martin, 23 Cole Stockton, 25 Rory Currie.

Dunfermline Athletic: 1 Sean Murdoch, 2 Ryan Williamson, 5 Callum Morris, 6 Lee Ashcroft, 3 Lewis Martin, 7 Kallum Higginbotham, 15 Michael Paton, 8 Nate Wedderburn, 11 Joe Cardle (M’Voto 89), 9 Declan McManus, 23 Callum Smith (Lochhead 66).  Subs: 20 Cameron Gill, 4 Jean Yves M’Voto, 13 Aaron Splaine, 14 Jason Talbot, 18 Conner Duthie, 19 Scott Lochhead.

Referee: Craig Thomson

Programme: £3

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