Betfred Cup: Dunfermline 0 Hearts 1: 18/08/18
Hearts battled through to a quarter-final place in the Betfred Cup thanks to late Olly Lee goal. The Pars produced a creditable performance that gives them confidence to take into their league campaign.
The Pars reward for topping their Betfred Cup group was a home tie in the Second Round against Heart of Midlothian. Manager Allan Johnston made one change to his starting eleven from the team that faced Ross County the previous Saturday with Danny Devine returning from injury meaning Joe Thomson was on the bench.
Following the serious injury to Christophe Berra against Celtic the previous weekend, Craig Levein was forced into changing his central defence. Aaron Hughes replaced his injured captain and Steven MacLean started in place of Kyle Lafferty who was on the bench.
There was a large travelling support over from the capital and East End Park was buzzing as both teams emerged from the undercroft, the fans rose to warmly welcome their favourites.
Dunfermline kicked off against the Premier League leaders attacking the goal in front of the East Stand and Faissal El Bakhtaoui forced a throw in down by the right corner flag within fifteen seconds but it was Jake Mulraneyâ€™s sprint down the right that caused the first major threat. His speed and then pass to the near post set up MacLean but the defence managed to beat away his shot.
Hearts forced a fourth minute corner but fortunately Ryan Williamson was able to head that clear and then in sixth minute a Myles Hippolyte cross from the left was headed behind for a Pars corner. James Craigen sent that in from the right and despite Mark Durnan getting his header in first Hearts cleared the danger.
In ten minutes Ryan Williamson evaded the offside trap and he forced another corner on the right. Craigenâ€™s cross was headed away but very quickly El Bakhtaoui found himself though on the right and his shot from an angle came back out off the left goalpost.
Dunfermline continued to cause Hearts problems down the right side and Williamson fed Louis Longridge the ball to send another dangerous ball into the Hearts box. They survived that and a very similar move again in 17 minutes. In between times a Mulraney cross dropped for Uche Ikpeazu in front of goal but Lee Ashcroftâ€™s timely intervention cleared the threat.
Back at the other end El Bakhtaoui floated on a great ball from the left that Hippolyte tried hard to convert with a dive in but unluckily failed to get contact. Hearts were maybe registering lots of possession but it was the home side that continued to create the opportunities. Hippolyte was offside after L Longridge had fed the ball through to him and Williamson had yet another push forward but he was unlucky as the final ball was intercepted as he raced into the box.
Jackson Longridge won a 30th minute corner but Craigenâ€™s delivery was too long. Hearts best effort this far came on 37 minutes when Olly Lee hit an effort from 25 yards out that was only kept out by virtue of a deflection off Ashcroft. The Fifers defended the resultant corner but conceded another three minutes later after Souttarâ€™s shot was blocked by Vincent and then Ikpeazu swung the ball over from the left and it was headed behind.
Hearts bunched together making it hard for the home side to pick up players but they successfully defended the setpiece.
Play stopped three minutes from the break for treatment to be given to Peter Haring but he was able to continue and was back on when Hearts were awarded a free kick 30 yards out. When the ball was played in by Lee, Naismith came close to getting a vital touch but instead the defence cleared.
After a final wild effort from Hippolyte, the sides went in level at the break, the first half stats showed 57% Hearts possession but it certainly didnâ€™t feel that. It was four shots apiece and El Bakhtaoui had hit the post.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Hearts 0
Hearts made a substitution before the restart, Oliver Bozanic coming on for Aaron Hughes. The home side started brightly and took the game to their opponents. Hipployteâ€™s overhead kick that sent J Longridge in on the left side of the Hearts box was centred but El Bakhtaoui just failed to get on the end of what would have been a move worthy of a goal.
In 57th minute L Longridge sent a fantastically well flighted pass from inside his own half to Williamson on the right midway inside the Hearts half. Ryan won the ball but when he tried to pick out El Bakhtaoui as he ran into the box, the Pars striker was ruled offside.
Lee Robinson chased to the right edge of his box to hold a MacLean pass. He spread himself well to hold the ball inside the box as he slid past it. At the other end Zlamal had to hold a long free kick. The Hearts fans had shown great patience but appealed strongly after J Longridge had put in a perfectly timed tackle. From the throw in Hearts got a dangerous ball into the Athletic box only for Bobby Madden to penalise Hearts for pushing.
El Bakhtaoui controlled a through ball and threatened to get past the Hearts defence until Souttar brought him down to earn himself a 67th minute yellow card. The free kick was defended but just two minutes later Williamson sprinted away up the right. His cross found El Bakhtaoui at the back post and his aerial attempt looked netbound until it was turned behind by Zlamal.
With twenty minutes remaining Kyle Lafferty was introduced in place of Uche Ikpeazu, raising the travelling supportâ€™s greatest cheer of the game. Dunfermline weâ€™re beginning to get pushed deeper and it gave Mulraney the chance to pop a shot from the right that made its way right across the face of goal and out on the left.
Hearts made a substitution introducing Calum Morrison for Mulraney and it was nothing to do with that move but the Jambos were to score with their next effort. It was Olly LEE who struck a low shot at an angle from the right. His attempt went between J Longridge and Devine and found the net far left. 0-1
Allan Johnston through on two subs, Aidan Connolly for Myles Hippolyte and then Andy Ryan for James Craigen. That set up a grand finale with the Fifers throwing everyything at their Premier League opponents.
Both subs had shots blocked and the keeper turned a Devine header over his bar. The keeper prevented extra time being necessary with a tremendous save in the fourth minute of added time. Williamson had terrorised the Hearts left and he centred another cross that firstly Connolly hit at the keeper and then El Bakhtaouiâ€™s follow up was also blocked.
Craig Levein had warned his players that they would face a stern test at East End Park and he was proved correct. Some would say that they made it difficult for themselves but the Hearts fans celebrated the win while the Pars fans could certainly celebrate a fine Dunfermline performance.
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Lee Ashcroft (c), Mark Durnan, Danny Devine: Ryan Williamson, James Vincent, Louis Longridge, James Craigen (Andy Ryan 86), Jackson Longridge: Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Myles Hippolyte (Aidan Connolly 81).
SUBS NOT USED: Kallum Higginbotham, Stuart Morrison, Joe Thomson, Callum Smith, Cammy Gill (GK)
HEARTS: Zdenek Zlamal: Michael Smith, John Souttar (c), Aaron Hughes (Oliver Bozanic HT), Ben Garuccio: Jake Mulraney (Callumn Morrison 77), Olly Lee, Peter Haring, Steven Naismith: Steven MacLean, Uche Ikpeazu (Kyle Lafferty 70)
SUBS NOT USED: Harry Cochrane, Anthony McDonald, Bobby Burns, Colin Doyle (GK).
SCORERS: Lee (79)
YELLOW CARD: Souttar (67)
REFEREE: Bobby Madden
WEATHER: 16C Cloudy
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (away) v Ayr United, Saturday 25th August 2018, 3.00pm kick off at Somerset Park.
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