Rangers advanced to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Youth Cup after a convincing away win at Hearts.
Despite going behind in the first-half, the away side led at the break thanks to goals from Liam Burt and Ryan Hardie.
Hardie then added two more goals to complete his hat-trick in the second half while Burt scored a sublime fifth in added time to increace the advantage and reduce Hearts’ second to a mere consolation.
The home side were eager for revenge following Rangers’ 2-1 victory over them in the SPFL Development League on Monday night and made the brighter start to the contest, eventually taking the lead in the 12th minute when defender Chris Hamilton rose at the back post to head in Andrew Irving’s clipped cross from the left side.
Rangers responded well, however, and were finding joy down the left side of the pitch. Liam Burt had a shot saved early on after cutting in from the wing with Hearts goalkeeper Kelby Mason doing well to keep hold of the strong shot. Zak Rudden’s strike from Rangers next attack proved a sterner test, however, and this time Mason could only parry the shot into Burt’s path with the winger calmly dispatching the ball into the net.
Hearts could have retaken the lead soon after thanks to some nice play down the right by Rory Currie and Callumn Morrison. A neat one-two allowed Morrison to get to the by-line before pulling back a cross to the penalty spot and had Irving’s shot been directed either side of Rangers stopper Robbie McCrorie then his side would have found themselves in front.
In the closing few minutes of the half Rangers were awarded a penalty. Midfielder Max Ashmore’s beautiful, diagonal pass just cleared the head of Hearts right back Yves Vladislav and found Burt on the left wing, Vladislav tried to make it back but instead bundled into the back of the attacker forcing him to crash to the ground. Hardie made the penalty look simple by stroking it low and into the net to give his side the lead.
With the tie in the balance, the opening 20 minutes of the second-half were end to end with both sides exchanging chances. For Rangers, their first opportunity of the half was a gift. Morrison’s back pass from a free kick on the right was under hit and it allowed Hardie a run on goal. He took the ball past Hamilton before clipping the ball over the goalkeeper but just wide of the far post.
It was a let off for Hearts but they were again breathing a sigh of relief not long later. A defence splitting pass from Kyle Bradley played from just inside his own half found Rangers skipper Ross McCrorie down the right. His low cross was testing and Hamilton was forced into action, sliding towards goal he blocked the cross but thankfully for him Mason was there on the line to save his wayward clearance.
At the other end, Morrison was proving to be his side’s biggest threat and came closest to levelling the match. After bringing down a cross from the left, he took a touch inside his defender and looked to pass the ball with his left foot into the far corner. Had it not been for a deflection on the way through, he perhaps would have found his target. From the resulting corner, Hearts captain Leon Jones’ downward header was saved on the line.
Hearts were made to rue their misfortune soon after. Ross McCrorie made a powerful run down the right before laying the ball inside to Burt, who in turn cut the ball back to Hardie. Unlike Irving from a similar position in the first half, Hardie was able to beat the keeper as he swept the ball into the far-left corner.
Ross McCrorie was growing into the game and his influence on the right flank was noticeable. Again, he managed to get himself into a good crossing position on the right before playing a low ball across the face of goal. Hardie was arriving at the back post but form point blank range Mason somehow managed to turn away his shot.
Hardie would not be denied for long, however. Soon after, the striker was released through on goal and clear of the Hearts defence. Facing a harder chance than the one he had previously spurned, Hardie kept his cool to stroke the ball with his right foot into the far corner of the goal. It was an emphatic way to complete his hat-trick.
After finding themselves 4-1 down with 15 minutes remaining, Hearts could have buckled completely but the scoreline was reduced thanks to Jones’ header at the back post. His effort may have taken a touch on the way in but Jones did well initially to get his powerful header on target.
It didn’t matter too much though as Rangers remained resolute and in the last minute of the game they once again increased the disparity between the teams. They did so in stunning fashion as well, all thanks to the individual brilliance of Burt, who managed to chip Mason from well over 40 yards. The Hearts ‘keeper could only watch as the ball sailed over his head and into the far corner, rounding off a deserved and well-earned victory in the most delightful of ways.