Hearts ran out 1-0 winners away to Elgin City in their opening competitive match of the season.
The Jambos were made to work hard by their Borough Briggs opponents, but Kyle Lafferty’s 60th minute header sealed a deserved victory in the first Betfred Cup group match of the new campaign.
Ian Cathro named a strong starting eleven, which included competitive debuts for summer signings Michael Smith, Ashley Smith-Brown and Lafferty, while the returning Christophe Berra made his second debut, captaining the side.
The Jambos attacked from the off, with Berra meeting Don Cowie’s free kick into the back door but the defender was penalised for climbing over his man.
Lafferty tried an ambitious effort from outside the area after 11 minutes, but it was a big ask and the ball sailed into the arms of goalkeeper Marc Waters.
Hearts had the ball in the back of the net after 16 minutes but it was ruled out for offside. Berra’s long ball into the box evaded two Elgin players which left Jamie Walker with the simplest of tasks to knock it into an empty net, but the winger was flagged by the linesman.
It should’ve been 1-0 to Hearts in the 43rd minute. Berra’s cross into the box was knocked into the path of Don Cowie by Lafferty, but the midfielder blasted over het crossbar from six-yards out, although he was under intense pressure from the home defence.
Hearts picked up where they left off at the start of the second-half by dominating possession. A quick switch of play in the 52nd minute released Isma down the left, he cut inside and skipped away from his man before unleashing a fierce drive at goal but Waters stood firm to make the save.
The Jambos were denied what looked like a certain penalty in the 56th minute when an Elgin player fluffed his clearance inside the box and struck the ball with his hand, but referee Steven Kirkland waved play on.
The deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark. Isma showed quick feet to draw out a foul on the byline and he quickly knocked it back to substitute Rafal Grzelak, who crossed for Lafferty to glance a header beyond Waters and open his Hearts account.
Walker went close to doubling the lead in the 74th minute when he was teed up by Isma outside the box, but his snapshot flew inches wide of Waters’ right-hand post.
Elgin City: Waters, Cooper, Smith (Eadie, 88'), McHardy, Bronsky, McGovern (Mcleish, 70'), Dodd, Cameron, Allan (McKinnon, 75'), Reilly, Sutherland. Subs: Wilson, Dear.
Hearts: Hamilton, M.Smith, Smith-Brown (Grzelak, 27'), Nowak, Hughes, Berra, Walker (Currie, 75'), Buaben, Cowie, Lafferty (Stockton, 85'), Isma. Subs: Noring, Martin, McGhee, Petkov.
Referee: Steven Kirkland
Top man: Isma