Hearts U20s booked their place in the 2nd round of the Irn Bru Cup thanks to a dramatic extra-time victory over Formartine United.
Trailing 2-0 at the interval, a Dario Zanatta brace in the second half sent the tie to extra-time. With a penalty shoot-out just seconds away, substitue Harry Paton grabbed a dramatic late winner to put the Wee Jambos through.
With Jon Daly busy preparing the first team for Saturday’s visit to Ibrox, Andy Kirk was tasked with taking charge of the Wee Jambos at North Lodge Park. Competition rules state that each U20s team is permitted to include two overage players in the squad and Hearts took full advantage by naming Angus Beith and Dario Zanatta in the starting eleven.
The likes of Calumn Morrison, Alex Petkov and Rory Currie were also included from the start as the Wee Jambos looked to secure progress to the second round.
It was the hosts who started the better side, however, and Hearts had Daniel Baur to thank when he hooked a ball away yards from goal after a low shot had Kelby Mason beat.
The Highland League side continued to pose problems to the Hearts defence and their pressure paid off on 16 minutes. The Wee Jambos passed up numerous chances to clear the ball from the box following a Formartine free kick, enabling Archie MacPhee to curl a shot into the left corner.
Hearts gradually began to look more composed in the final third but their only real chance on goal during the opening 30 minutes came courtesy of Calumn Morrison. The winger found space on the right side of the box but his cross/shot was palmed away by the keeper.
The home side continued to look dangerous going forward and duly doubled their lead shortly after the half-hour mark. Scott Barbour’s cross from the right found Max Berton at the back post who poked a low shot beyond Mason.
Hearts nearly pulled one back on the stroke of half-time when Zanatta headed a Morrison free-kick inches wide, but the Wee Jambos went into the interval two goals down.
Hearts came flying out the traps at the start of the second half and pulled one back within five minutes. Zanatta played a one-two with Euan Henderson on the edge of the box before slotting the ball beyond the advancing keeper.
Minutes later and Hearts had the chance to level as Zanatta was brought down in the box. Rory Currie stepped up but his penalty was saved by the keeper down by the left post. Minutes later, Zanatta embarked on a fine run before seeing his shot cleared off the line as Hearts turned on the pressure.
The hosts continued to look a threat on the break, however, and Mason produced a fine save to deny Lawrence on the hour mark. Henderson then came within inches of leveling on 71 minutes when he got on the end of a Morrison cross, but he sent his effort inches wide of the right post.
Just as the game looked to be heading for a Formartine win, up popped Zanatta again as he burst into the box and fired a shot beyond the keeper in the 92nd minute to send the tie to extra time.
The hosts were beginning to tire as extra time kicked off and Hearts looked dominant throughout the first half but couldn’t find a goal. The home side, meanwhile, were reduced to ten men wen Ferries picked up a second yellow.
Hearts started the second half brightly but the hosts were fighting tooth and nail and enjoyed a few attacks of their own. As the game entered the final minute of extra time, however, Hearts found a dramatic winner. Some intricate play on the edge of the box saw substitute Harry Paton released and he powered his shot beyond the keeper to spark wild celebrations. The final few minutes then played out without incident before the referee sounded the whistle and the Wee Jambos could celebrate a fantastic victory.
Formartine Utd: Sim, Michie, Smith, Laweson, Lawrence, MacPhee, Dingwall, Burnett, Berton, Ferries, Barbour. Subs: Mackintosh, Rodger, Gethins, Anderson, Crawford, Macdonald.
Hearts: Mason, C.Hamilton, K.Smith (Reid '114), Baur, Sandison, Morrison, Petkov (Paton '110), Beith, Zanatta, Currie, Henderson (Irving ’79). Subs not used: W.Gajda, Ritchie.