As ever with cup football, the tried and trusted clichés were getting trotted out in cheery abandon in the build up to this one.
The cup’s a great leveller, it’s a potential banana skin for Hearts, it’s a great day out for the visitors? You name it, the hoary old chestnuts had been spouted. In the end, though, the cup didn’t level things up and Hearts didn’t go skiting on a banana skin. Those of a Talbot persuasion no doubt had a grand day out though …
NO CLOSE SHAVE THIS TIME …
The last meeting between the sides seven years ago here at Tynecastle was a largely jittery affair for the hosts and it took them until the 84th minute to break Talbot’s stoic resistance.
Even then, Hearts got jammier than, well, a jam tart, when a perfectly good Auchinleck equaliser was chalked off in the last knockings.
Yesterday, the Talbot fortifications were breached within 10 minutes as Christophe Berra’s free header flew into the net. It was an ominous sign for the visitors and the subsequent traffic was so one-way, the Auld Reekie cooncilors were probably thinking of bringing in a congestion charge.
Demetri Mitchell and Steven MacLean had the tie wrapped up by half-time while Aidan Keena’s first of the season gilded the lily in the second period. Hearts went on to win the cup in 2012 after beating Auchinleck. Who knows what 2019 will bring?
IKPEAZU’S RETURN BOLSTERS THE FRONTLINE
Uche Ikpeazu had stated earlier in the week that he was determined to make up for lost time after a campaign scuppered by injury.
The 23-year-old, who had been on the sidelines for four months and enjoyed a 20 minute run out against Livingston during the week, certainly set about his task with considerable gusto. With the kind of robust physique that’s as solid as Arthur’s Seat, Ikpeazu gives the Hearts frontline a fairly fearsome presence. There’s strength but no shortage of deft skill too.
Ikpeazu didn’t get on the score sheet but battled and barged away admirably and gave himself plenty of sniffs at goal. Indeed, he possibly tried too hard to score. The warm response he was afforded when he was substituted in the second half spoke volumes for his general, roll-up-the-sleeves endeavour. There should be much more to come.
NEVER A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH
At times this season, the injury list at Hearts has been so long, Craig Levein has been adding names into the margins. Slowly but surely, however, the wounded have been returning but the sight of Michael Smith going off was a sore one to stomach.
He will have a scan on a torn thigh muscle today and could be out for six weeks, perhaps even longer.
“It seems we’re not allowed to have them all back,” lamented Levein as his hopes of being able to choose from a full-strength squad suffered another dunt. The footballing gods are a fickle lot.
TALBOT PLUCK EARNS PLAUDITS
The first half may have killed them off but Auchinleck’s unwavering energy and drive was laudable. They even had a consolation goal chalked off in the dying embers when Stephen Wilson’s prod was ruled offside. Those spoilsport officials eh?
“Any team that is not used to losing is dangerous,” said Levein as he gave the all-conquering junior team the utmost respect.
Having beaten local rivals Ayr United in the previous round, while giving a good account of themselves here, Talbot once again illustrated the strength and spirit that abounds in the junior ranks. “You see the other results, Celtic pumping St Johnstone 5-0, so I feel we have done no’ bad for a junior side coming here,” said Wilson. “And it could be worse … we could be Chelsea,” he added, referencing their 6-0 loss to Manchester City.