Hearts booked their place in the Scottish Cup Semi Finals at Hampden in fine fashion with a 4-2 victory over St Mirren at Tynecastle.
The home side were 2-0 up and cruising by the half hour mark after goals from the dynamic midfield duo of Beni Baningime and Peter Haring.
Eamonn Brophy gave St Mirren a lifeline nine minutes before the interval and when Ronan levelled the tie just after the hour mark, it would take a brave soul to call the winner at that stage.
Aaron McEneff has not enjoyed much game time for Hearts this season, but he restored the Jambos’ advantage after 67 minutes, before Simms wrapped up the tie five minutes from the end.
All eyes were on the Hearts starting 11 an hour before kick-off to see how many of those injured in Saturday’s draw at Tannadice had recovered in time for the visit of St Mirren.
The home side were still able to name a strong starting eleven, however could only name seven substitutes. John Souttar, Alex Cochrane, Cammy Devlin, Josh Ginnelly and Gary Mackay-Steven all missed out, joining Michael Smith on the treatment table.
After an early sight at goal for Eamonn Brophy was comfortably held by Craig Gordon, Barrie McKay forced the returning Jak Alnwick into his first save of the evening. The winger cut in from the left before taking aim, but the St Mirren stopper was able to beat it away.
The deadlock was broken after just 16 minutes, and it was no surprise to see McKay at the heart of it. After driving at Richard Tait, McKay got his cross in, finding Simms at the front post. The Everton loanee couldn’t prod the ball home from a matter of yards, but the rebound fell to Baningime who smashed the ball home to grab his first goal in maroon and put the hosts in front.
There hadn’t really been much between the sides in the early stages and on the half-hour mark, St Mirren somehow found themselves two goals down after some brilliant play from Hearts. Boyce picked out Woodburn on the right and his first-time pass was perfect for Peter Haring to side foot home Hearts’ second.
In a first half of few chances, the third goal of the game arrived nine minutes before the break and this time it was for the visitors. Tait bombed down the right and his cross was expertly finished by Brophy to haul his side back into the tie.
Brophy almost grabbed his second just two minutes later when getting on the end of Jordan Jones cross, before Craig Halkett rattled the underside of the bar for Hearts at the end of a pulsating first half.
The game was finely poised at this stage with some nerves starting to creep into three quarters of Tynecastle, but the nerves were almost settled by Woodburn, who after a good advantage from referee Bobby Madden, picked up possession and drove towards goal. His effort deflected off Charles Dunne and forced a smart save from Alnwick.
Hearts were warned on the hour mark that St Mirren were still dangerous and they didn’t learn their lesson. Jones and Kiltie were both denied by Gordon in quick succession, but the Scotland number one could do nothing to deny Connor Ronan after 62 minutes. The midfielder let fly from 25-yards, and his volley flew straight into the top corner to level the scores.
The Buddies weren’t level for long though and seconds after replacing Woodburn, Aaron McEneff put the home side back in front. Nathaniel Atkinson made good progress down the right flank and when his cross was cleared, the ball cannoned off the knee of McEneff and past Alnwick to spark wild celebrations.
Despite only having a slender one goal lead, Hearts were comfortable in the match, and they looked by far the likelier of the two sides to score next and so it transpired.
Substitute McEneff was again involved, and his near post cross was turned home by Simms to restore Hearts’ two goal lead with five minutes to play and send the Jambos to Hampden.