Tenacious Talbot Are Left Broken by Hearts; Smith Pounces to See off Brave Junior Outfit as Gorgie Men Avoid a Replay
Byline: Fraser Mackie
AUCHINLECK T 0
AUCHINLECK TALBOT were denied a most unlikely date with Marcello Lippi and Andre Villas-Boas by a calamitous late collision in their goalmouth.
Grateful Gordon Smith preyed upon a loose ball, created after Talbot's Bryan Slavin bumped into hero keeper Andrew Leishman on 84 minutes, to tuck home a winner that fed rapid relief around three-quarters of Tynecastle.
It's arguable that a Junior side forcing a replay at a major Scottish Premier League ground beats any knockout surprise within the four professional leagues.
And the visitors were good value for creating such a shock -- and being part of tomorrow's Hampden fifth-round draw which will be conducted by Italian legend Lippi and Chelsea boss Villas-Boas -- until unconvincing Hearts finally converted a predictable possession advantage into a precious goal.
It was one passed on to them by an agonising moment of self-destruction. How harsh it was on Leishman, who produced four top-class saves -- which included a penalty stop from Hearts debutant Fraser Mullen.
There was even more agony when Gordon Pope thought he had netted the equaliser in injury time, only to see the linesman's flag cut short his celebrations. It was a borderline decision.
Following the frenzy of derby-day success, the Tynecastle faithful welcomed their heroes home and anticipated a goal feast.
The eight changes from Easter Road, though, and a most organised and committed defensive effort from the visitors ensured that was never going to be the case.
The support was given a preview of the future -- where the club hierarchy are intent on shipping out established earners and, after that clear-out, advancing the academy players of promise.
To that end, Mullen started at right-back but, midway through the first half, the 18-year-old fluffed the chance to make a positive start to his senior career.
Arvydas Novikovas was wrestled to the turf by Pope as he raced in on goal from the right side of the area, presenting Hearts with a chance to score from 12 yards.
However, it turned into the moment that shaped the contest -- and not in favour of the SPL side. It was probably unfair to say Mullen froze in the moment as the kick was far from feeble, drilled along the deck to the goalkeeper's right. Yet Leishman was quickly down to block right on the line.
Several Hearts players made their way to Mullen to offer words of solace and support in order that the failure would not damage him for the remainder of the contest. Instead, others patently failed to show top-flight class against lowly rivals.
Andy Driver was given his frequently requested opportunity from the start. He was booked for simulation, swapped sides with Novikovas towards the end of the half and couldn't craft a way to beat Leishman.
Andy Webster's recent eye for goal deserted him when meeting a corner, his header wastefully high and wide.
Rudi Skacel shuffled in from the right to create another opening but Leishman was inspired again, clawing the Czech midfielder's shot out of the air and away to safety. …