Last night`s penalty shoot-out defeat at Ayr United was the latest sorry episode in Hearts` awful League Cup record, adding yet another early exit to similar early defeats to Falkirk and Airdrie in recent years. Since Hearts last won the competition in 1962, our only appearance in the Final was 1996 in a thrilling narrow 4-3 defeat against Rangers. In modern times, you only have to win 2 matches to reach the semi-finals – yet Hearts seem to fail this modest task with incredible regularity.
Although we technically didn’t lose the match (a 1-1 draw), it takes the shine off the slowly growing momentum which the team were building thanks to their SPL results. A creditable draw at Inverness was followed by a good home win against St. Mirren, meaning that the team have picked up 11 points from 5 matches after Paulo Sergio`s debut in the 1-0 defeat at Motherwell. Only 1 goal has been conceded in that run, which shows that a slight improvement in our scoring could ensure a lot of future victories.
On a brighter note, it was good to see our 3 on-loan players at East Fife savour a famous victory in their Cup tie at Aberdeen, after disposing of Dunfermline in the previous round. Rob Ogleby, Matthew Park and Mark Ridgers all featured prominently for John Robertson`s team – where 2 of their goals came from ex-Hearts men Ryan Wallace and Robert Sloan. Good luck to Robbo and his team in their next game at Kilmarnock !!
It was encouraging to see Hearts` represented by 4 U-19 players in the Scotland squad in Slovenia. Jason Holt, Jack Hamilton, David Smith and new recruit Callum Tapping.
I can`t help feeling that Hearts still have too big a first-team squad, meaning that most of these promising young players won`t be able make the progress which their talent deserves. Hopefully this is something which Paulo Sergio can address over the next 9 months, as some senior contracts expire.
The best way to eradicate the disappointment of the Ayr defeat will be to register a win at Perth on Sunday – so let`s hope the players are focused on the need to score a few goals.