Hearts are into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup after a commanding 4-1 victory at Airdrieonians.
The Jambos raced into a three-goal lead int the first half through Lawrence Shankland, Kenneth Vargas and Calem Nieuwenhof, with Adam Frizzell pulling one back for the hosts before the break. There was no let up in the second 45, however, and Shankland put the icing on the cake with his second and Hearts’ fourth.
Head Coach Steven Naismith made three changes from the side that beat St Johnstone in midweek. Craig Gordon took over from Zander Clark between the sticks, Craig Halkett came in for Frankie Kent while Jorge Grant replaced Scott Fraser.
It took the Jambos 11 minutes to get their noses in front and it came courtesy of a decisive break forward. Grant sent Alex Cochrane clear down the left, he raced forward before expertly picking out Shankland inside the box and he slammed home to give the Jambos the lead.
Gordon came to the rescue minutes later, making a fantastic point-blank save to deny Niko Todorov who had slid in to connect with a ball into the six-yard box.
The Jambos had the woodwork to thank on 17 minutes. Mason Hancock rose to meet a corner and bulleted a header back off the crossbar, with Todorov sending the rebound wide.
A minute later it was 2-0. Vargas latched on to a ball forward, his touch took him into the box but Airdrieonians ‘keeper Josh Rae completely missed it as he rushed out, leaving the ball to roll into the back of the net.
By 22 minutes, Hearts had a third. Nieuwenhof carried the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box, cutting inside and away from two home shirts before drilling low into Rae’s bottom left corner.
The home side kept at it, trying to get a foothold back in the game. Dean McMaster took on a loose ball before trying his luck from 25-yards but he failed to find the target.
Alan Forrest went close to adding another just after the half hour mark. The impressive Nieuwenhof advanced down the right before crossing to the back door for Forrest to connect with, but his first-time effort was beaten away by Rae.
Soon after, the hosts pulled one back. A cross came in from the right and Frizzell met it, steering a header into Gordon’s bottom left-hand corner.
The goal did nothing to dampen Hearts’ spirits, with substitute Kye Rowles tearing forward into the Airdrie half before teeing up Shankland, and he fired an ambitious effort over the bar.
Forrest was proving dangerous, and with six minutes remaining until half time he darted into the Airdrie box before hitting a powerful shot which Rae pushed over the bar.
Gordon was next to see action, albeit comfortably stopping a long-range Lee McGregor effort.
Hearts started the second half the way they had finished the first. A nice passing move inside the Airdrie final third saw Dexter Lembikisa strike from outside the box but his effort was beaten away by Rae.
It should’ve been 4-1 on 58 minutes. Shankland did brilliantly to hold the ball up inside the box before backheeling into the path of Forrest, but clean through he could only lift his shot clean over the bar.
Forrest was in the mix again not long after, stinging the palms of Rae with a rasping shot from outside of the box.
Hearts were utterly dominant by this point, retaining possession and working owards the opposition’s box but to Airdrie’s credit they defended well, with Rae making a comfortable save from Alex Cochrane’s long-range shot.
But that pressure paid off with 17 minutes remaining. Substitute Scott Fraser’s delightful through ball sent Shankland racing into the box, and he expertly lifted his shot over Rae and into the back of the net.
A comfortable evening for the boys in maroon, who will meet Greenock Morton at Cappielow in the quarter-finals.
Airdrieonians: Rae, McCabe, Hancock, Fordyce, McGregor, Frizzell ©, Todorov, McMaster, Watson, Telfer, Lyall. Subs: Hutton, Ballantyne, Taylor-Sinclair, O’Connor, C. Gallagher, Dunlop, Donnell, G. Gallagher, Cassidy.
Hearts: Gordon, Kingsley, Halkett, Baningime, Grant, Nieuwenhof, Shankland ©, Forrest, Cochrane, Vargas, Lembikisa. Subs: Clark, Kent, Atkinson, Devlin, Rowles, Denholm, Tait, Fraser, Tagawa.
Referee: Steven McLean