Hearts exited the Scottish Cup this evening at the hands of Brora Rangers after succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at Dudgeon Park.
Jordan Maclean’s early opener was cancelled out by Christophe Berra’s second-half strike, but soon after Brora scored what proved to be the winner through Martin Maclean.
Robbie Neilson made six changes from the side that drew with Arbroath last weekend. Ross Stewart replaced Scotland call-up Craig Gordon, Aidy White came in for the injured Stephen Kingsley while Christophe Berra, Peter Haring, Jamie Walker and Gervane Kastaneer were all included with Mihai Popescu and Liam Boyce on the bench, Michael Smith on international duty and Andy Halliday suspended.
Hearts dominated the opening proceedings with White and Gary Mackay-Steven enjoying particular success down the left. Mackay-Steven’s early hooked cross nearly crept into the top corner then moments later Jamie Walker was bundled over inside the box but the referee waved play on.
It was the hosts, however, who took the lead on 11 minutes. Jordan Macrae was slipped in at the egde of the box and he rifled a shot beyond Stewart and into the top corner.
Brora went close to doubling their lead ten minutes later. A corner into the Hearts box wasn’t cleared and Jordan Macrae pounced on the loose ball but his shot was deflected narrowly wide.
The Jambos immediately went up the park and created an opportunity of their own. Armand Gananduillet weaved his way to the edge of the Brora box before pulling the trigger, but his effort was tame and easily smothered by Joe Malin.
Hearts kept up the pressure in an attempt to find the equaliser. White’s ball down the line found Mackay-Steven, whose cutback into the box was struck first-time by Aaron McEneff but Malin got down to make the save.
Mackay-Steven was impressing on the wing and he whipped a ball into the box on the half-hour mark for Gnanduillet to connect with, but his glancing header flew inches past Malin’s left-hand post.
McEneff forced Malin into a save right on half time after getting on the end of a corner at the opposite side of the box, blasting goalward only to see the Brora keeper beat the ball away.
Boyce replaced Kastaneer with the break and Hearts immediately went on the offensive after the restart. McEneff played Gnanduillet into the box and from an angle his powerful drive was blocked by Malin.
Soon after, Gnanduillet rose to meet Andy Irving’s looping free-kick but he couldn’t steer his header on target.
It should have been 1-1 just before the hour mark. Gnanduillet swept a pass into the middle of the box for the unmarked Walker but he could only scoop the ball over the bar.
Malin pulled off a fantastic save to deny Hearts the equaliser on 67 minutes. Irving’s corner was floated to the back door for Berra to power a header down towards the bottom left corner, but the Brora keeper flung himself to his right to palm the ball away.
That elusive goal finally came two minutes later. Another Irving corner was punched out but only as far as Walker, who nodded back into the box for Berra to strike a volley on the turn that nestled into the right-hand side of the net.
The hosts nearly got their noses in front immediately after, following and Irving foul 20-yards out. Bjorn Wagenaar struck sweet set piece that flew narrowly over the bar.
Disaster struck in the 74th minute. A hanging free-kick into the Hearts box could only be pushed away by Stewart and the ball fell to Maclean who fired high into the roof of the net.
Searching to restore parity once again, Mackay-Steven was alert to cut in from the right before drilling low on target but Malin got down to make another good save.
Boyce dragged an effort wide late on as Hearts couldn't find another goal to get back into the game.
Brora Rangers: Malin, A. Macdonald, Williamson, Nicolson, Gillespie, Maclean, J. Macrae, A. Macrae (Brindle, 64’), Kelly, Wagenaar (G. Macdonald, 82’), Gamble (Morrison, 64’). Subs: Stephen.
Hearts: Stewart, White, Haring, Berra, Walker, Gnanduillet, Mackay-Steven, McEneff (Henderson, 58’), Irving, Halkett, Kastaneer (Boyce, 46’). Subs: Zlamal, Souttar, Frear, Popescu,, McGill.
Referee: Peter Stuart