Hearts at the last

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The Independent Online
Aberdeen 1

Shearer 87

Heart of Midlothian 2

Robertson 80, Johnston 90

At Hampden Park Attendance: 27,785

FOR 80 minutes this was a dreadfully tiresome semi-final between two teams devoid of imagination or threat; 10 minutes later it had produced elation and dejection. A John Robertson scramble, a Duncan Shearer looping header and an Allan Johnston diving reply all came in the final 10 minutes.

Both teams had been humbled in recent weeks. Hearts let in five goals against Partick Thistle a fortnight ago and Aberdeen conceded the same number against Celtic on Monday night. Roy Aitken reacted swiftly and the centre-half Brian Irvine was replaced by John Inglis, while captain Stewart McKimmie returned from injury at right-back. Stephen Glass came in from the left wing to a central midfield role, but Aberdeen seemed to miss the supply line generated by his threatening wide runs. Meanwhile, Steve Fulton was closed down by Paul Bernard and neither side found a creative pivot.

Both goalkeepers did have early work to do as Gilles Rousset and Michael Watt collected low, deep crosses from Hugh Robertson and Neil Pointon in the opening minutes. Inglis produced another fine save from the French keeper after quarter of an hour, heading a Glass corner at his right-hand post, while Watt stopped a deflected Johnston shot on the line.

Joe Miller was having some success for Aberdeen on the right, and set up Dean Windass for a heading chance after turning Pointon. The left midfielder's answer was to rake his studs down Miller's right shin a minute later and he was extremely lucky to escape a yellow card. Miller almost took revenge two minutes from the break when he curled a left-foot shot which Rousset tipped wide. The referee, however, gave a goal-kick and Miller hobbled off.

It was the introduction of Robertson and Dave McPherson in the 74th minute which turned the game for Hearts. McPherson was soon climbing over Inglis to nod down a Pointon header at Robertson's feet. Faced with a mass of Aberdeen defenders, he somehow poked the ball through. It duly bounced back, but the referee was already running back towards the centre circle.

Aberdeen found a reply from their own substitute Shearer. In the 87th minute, Glass swung over a free kick and Shearer looped a header into the net.

The tedium had turned into the torrid and the story was still incomplete. A minute into added time, Robertson collected wide on the left and crossed for Johnston to dive and head home. It is 40 years since Hearts last won the Scottish Cup, but on 18 May they will have another chance.