Stinging defeat for Hearts marks historic day for The Wasps
After 131 years, Alloa have finally defeated Hearts in a competitive match, with an Alan Trouten penalty proving enough to send Alloa through to the League Cup quarter finals for just the fifth time in 74 years. Jamie Mcintosh reports.
After Hearts’ comfortable 3-0 victory over Alloa at Tynecastle on Tuesday, manager Robbie Neilson was quick to warn his players that the upcoming game would be “day and night” compared to Tuesday’s walk in the park.
Neilson didn’t win on either of his two trips to the Indodrill last season as Dundee United manager, so he was under no illusions as to just how tough a fixture this would be for his Hearts side.
The hosts made two changes from the side that lost in the capital on Tuesday, with Robbie Buchanan replacing Robbie Thomson and Nicky Jamieson replacing Jon Robertson. Neil Parry started in between the sticks for the Wasps, as he did at Tynecastle on Tuesday, today marking the 35-year-old stopper’s 150th appearance for Alloa.
As for Hearts, they made two changes for the trip to Clackmannanshire, with Aidy White being rewarded for his impressive performances off the bench replacing Jordan Roberts and Olly Lee replacing Steven Naismith. Craig Halkett was due to captain the side in the absence of Naismith; however, he took a knock in the warmup and was replaced by Mihai Popescu, leaving Christophe Berra to wear the armband.
The visitors had an early shout for a penalty when Liam Boyce showed good upper body strength to roll his man, before hitting the deck. Referee Gavin Duncan awarded the foul, but judged the offence to be just outside the box, with nothing coming from the resulting free kick.
Neil Parry was called into action for the first time inside 10 minutes, thwarting Olly Lee’s attempt to take the ball round him, before Liam Boyce’s follow-up effort was deflected behind.
Alan Trouten had the first strike on goal for the Wasps after Jamie Walker lost possession midway inside his own half, however his strike was straight at Craig Gordon.
Alloa were trying to play out from the back, but Hearts were pressing well and when Walker won the ball deep inside the Alloa half and set up Lee for a long-range effort, Parry had to be alert to stop his deflected strike.
The visitors were well on top in the early stages and Peter Haring was dictating the play in the middle of the park. Full backs Michael Smith and Stephen Kingsley were playing high up the park and it was the former’s cross that should have led to the opening goal, but Jamie Walker headed the delivery wide of the goal.
Once again, a Hearts full back was the creator for the visitors next chance. This time, it was Kingsley, who’s cross was glanced over at the near post by Haring.
After Alloa had weathered that early Hearts storm, they came into the game more towards the end of the first half. Hearts had created the better of the chances, but couldn’t make the early pressure count, so it was goalless at the break.
The second half began with a similar pattern to the first and Liam Dick was well positioned on the goal-line to clear an early strike from Jamie Walker, who had been left frustrated at the Indodrill, having already missed some of Hearts’ best chances.
After an uneventful 15 minutes in the second half, Robbie Neilson had seen enough and made his first and second substitutions in quick succession on the hour mark, replacing Aidy White with Craig Wighton and Liam Boyce with Steven Naismith.
Alloa were really struggling to get out of their own half at this stage and Jamie Walker missed another glorious chance to give the visitors the lead after some nice build up play involving the two substitutes and Olly Lee, however Andy Graham’s last ditch intervention prevented Neil Parry from being called into action.
Alloa had a rare venture up field midway through the second half and Robbie Buchanan called Craig Gordon into action with 20 minutes to play with a powerful header, which Gordon did well to tip behind – a warning for the dominant visitors that they still had to be switched on defensively.
Hearts continued to dominate possession and you have to credit Alloa, who worked so hard to make things difficult for Hearts and as we ticked towards stoppage time, you couldn’t argue that Alloa didn’t deserve to hold on for extra time.
The Wasps survived to full time and at the full time whistle, Alloa looked like the more likely team to advance to the quarter finals, after another Hearts performance which lacked creativity and overall quality. However, the only thing that mattered now was making sure that their name was in the draw for the quarter final draw, at the expense of Alloa’s.
The first half of extra time passed without much real excitement. The closest chance of the 15 minute spell fell to Hearts, but it came in the form of a deflected cross from substitute Jordan Roberts, which Neil Parry did well to deal with.
As we entered the second period of extra time, Alloa were beginning to get the better of things and got the lead their effort alone deserved when Jamie Walker fouled Robbie Thomson at the back post, with Gavin Duncan awarding the hosts a penalty. Alan Trouten stepped up and sent Craig Gordon the wrong way to give the home side the lead after 109 minutes.
Managers Robbie Neilson and Peter Grant had been very vocal throughout the match, however it would have been very interesting to see the reaction of over 1,000 Hearts fans if they had been granted the unfortunate opportunity to attend this game.
The Wasps held on for a memorable and deserved victory to progress to the quarter finals of the Betfred Cup, creating their own history whilst doing so.
Alloa Manager Peter Grant admitted he was incredibly proud of his players performance today, some of whom were working until the early hours of Saturday morning:
“Half of the boys were working this morning, one until 4:30AM. Going into extra time I was a bit concerned, but they worked ever so hard and yet again it shows the desire, commitment and talent my players have. “
Craig Gordon accepts that his side’s performance today simply wasn’t good enough, however he strongly believes that the penalty Alloa won the game with should never have been awarded:
“I don’t think Jamie (Walker) caught him. The ball’s bounced awkwardly, Jamie’s running back, the boy’s taken a fresh air swipe and he’s got the penalty. That was how I saw it.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was still content with the performance despite the defeat and believes his side could -and should – have won the game comfortably.
“I thought we dominated the game, we should’ve won it by two or three goals at least. We had some great opportunities and it just didn’t go our way today.”
“You hope you get a referee that can get these big decisions right. We didn’t get one today and it’s turned out to be the pivotal moment in the game.”
Both teams are back to league duties next weekend, with Alloa looking to follow up this good result with their first league win of the campaign when they host Ayr United. Meanwhile, Hearts face another tricky away game as they travel to Cappielow to face Morton.