Hearts beat Raith Rovers 3-1 this evening to make it three Betfred Cup wins from three.
Craig Wighton was the hat-trick hero, notching a brace of penalties in the first half before scoring a brilliant solo effort late on, with Manny Duku pulling one back for the visitors.
With Friday’s Championship opener against Dundee on the horizon, Robbie Neilson rang the changes from last weekend’s win over Cowdenbeath. Ross Stewart replaced Craig Gordon for his Hearts debut, Peter Haring came in for Craig Halkett while Craig Wighton, Harry Cochrane, Stephen Kingsley, Elliott Frear, Lewis Moore and Euan Henderson started ahead of Steven Naismith, Jamie Walker, Olly Lee, Jordan Roberts, Josh Ginnelly and Mihai Popescu.
There was drama less than a minute into the game. Moore was sent crashing 25-yards from goal, leaving Kingsley with a set piece opportunity. His free-kick struck the outstretched arm of Kyle Benedictus and referee Craig Napier pointed to the spot. Wighton stepped up and coolly sent Jamie MacDonald the wrong way to open the scoring and his Hearts account.
The visitors began to settle into a rhythm but it was the Jambos who would threaten next. Wighton timed a run to perfection to get goal side of Fernandy Mendy and latch on to a raking pass, before turning the Raith defender inside out and forcing a smart save by MacDonald at his near post.
Soon after, Wighton played a delightful pass inside to Moore at the edge of the box. He took a touch before seeing his effort deflected narrowly wide.
At the other end Manny Duku showed good awareness to spray the ball out to Regan Tumilty at the edge of the Hearts box. He took a touch inside before drilling low, but Stewart got down to make a comfortable save.
With five minutes to go until half time, the Jambos were awarded another penalty, this time when Benedictus slipped and took Wighton down with him at the edge of the box, and Wighton dusted himself off to slot the spot kick into MacDonald’s bottom left corner.
The was time for one more chance before the half was out when Henderson darted with the ball into the box but his shot was blocked by Benedictus despite beating MacDonald.
Hearts picked up where they left off after the restart, with Henderson carrying the ball into the Raith box before finding Frear, but his close-range shot was saved by MacDonald.
Raith halved the deficit on 54 minutes. Dylan Tait played a clever ball into the box for Mendy to run on to, and he smashed an unstoppable shot beyond Stewart and into the top corner.
Both sides pressed for the crucial next goal. Cochrane shrugged off a heavy challenge to get to within shooting distance but he placed his effort well over the target.
Stewart had to be alert in the 81st minute when substitute Lewis Vaughan’s free kick looked to be creeping inside the post, but the Jambos keeper flung himself to his right to claw the ball away.
A moment of real quality sealed the game for Hearts with three minutes remaining. Wighton took the ball for a run, twisting his man inside out before going one-on-one with MacDonald and slamming it past him for his and the men in maroon’s third.
Wighton nearly had a fourth in injury time after Olly Lee won the ball inside the Raith box and swung a cross in, but the striker's glancing header flew inches over the bar.
Hearts: Stewart, White (Roberts, 53’), Haring, Wighton, Cochrane, Kingsley, Frear (Walker, 71’), Brandon, Moore (Ginnelly, 71’), Henderson (Popescu, 61’), McGill (Lee, 61’). Subs: Gordon, Halkett.
Raith Rovers: J. MacDonald, Tumilty, K. MacDonald, Davidson, Mendy (Ross, 53’), Duku (Armstrong, 67’), Matthews, Spencer (Vaughan, 67’), Tait (Anderson, 71’). Subs: Thomson, Mahady, Coulson.