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Greenock Morton 0-1 Heart of Midlothian: Craig Gordon saves and late Kenneth Vargas secure Scottish Cup semi-final place

Steven Naismith says Craig Gordon is “back to where he was before” as the fit-again goalkeeper kept Greenock Morton at bay before Kenneth Vargas’ late strike secured a place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

Greenock Morton 0-1 Heart of Midlothian: Craig Gordon saves and late Kenneth Vargas secure Scottish Cup semi-final place
Greenock Morton 0-1 Heart of Midlothian: Craig Gordon saves and late Kenneth Vargas secure Scottish Cup semi-final place

Counterpart Dougie Imrie thought his side deserved to be at Hampden instead after they gave the Premiership visitors a fright before being caught on the counter with four minutes remaining.

Lawrence Shankland was through on goal before laying it off to Vargas to slot the ball into the far corner.

Hearts will face Rangers in the last four following the draw made live on BBC Scotland after the final whistle.

But Hearts also needed Gordon to keep his first clean sheet since recovering from a double leg break as the 41-year-old vies with team-mate Zander Clark for a starting place – and a spot in the Scotland squad to be announced on Tuesday.

“I’ve said it all along, he’s back to where he was before,” head coach Naismith said. “He’s worked really hard, got a drive and his experience in coming for balls and taking the pressure off is invaluable. But it is brilliant to have two great goalies.”

Imrie said before the game his side wanted to make things “difficult” for the visitors and they certainly did that at Cappielow.

It was a bright start for the home side and veteran goalkeeper Craig Gordon was called into action inside five minutes to get low and save an Alan Power free-kick.

Hearts took a while to find their feet but began to pile on the pressure towards the end of the first half and fashion a few chances, but the Morton defence held firm to the test.

It was Morton who came out the brighter of the two sides after the break and fashioned the best opportunity of the game so far.

Robbie Muirhead had the chance to play the ball into the path of Robbie Crawford, but the pair just were not on the same page and Hearts managed to get it clear.

Beni Baningime also had a massive chance to grab the opener at the front post, but his header inched over the Morton crossbar.

It was now end-to-end action with both side coming up with their fair share of chances, but neither were able to make it count.

Hearts had to weather a bit of a storm before Cammy Devlin managed to force home goalkeeper Ryan Mullen into a great save.

Vargas should have broken the deadlock with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Shankland did all the hard work before laying it off to his strike partner, who tried to lift the ball over Mullen, but it bounced off the top of the crossbar and over.

Hearts began to pile on the pressure as Morton tired and Mullen did well to get down and stop substitute Aidan Denholm’s close-range effort.

However, after 85 minutes, Hearts finally got the breakthrough when Vargas did find the back of the net from Shankland’s lay-off to secure their spot in the semi-final.

Player of the match – Kenneth Vargas (Hearts)

Greenock Morton 0-1 Heart of Midlothian: Craig Gordon saves and late Kenneth Vargas secure Scottish Cup semi-final place
Greenock Morton 0-1 Heart of Midlothian: Craig Gordon saves and late Kenneth Vargas secure Scottish Cup semi-final place

Valiant Morton narrowly beaten – analysis

It was a valiant effort from Morton, who had already seen off Premiership side Motherwell in the previous round.

They managed to keep Hearts at bay for most of the match and even created chances of their own and looked to threaten the visitors, with Gordon called into action on numerous occasions.

Ultimately, the lack of depth in Imrie’s squad took it’s toll and the quality of Hearts’ attackers shone through.

The Hearts side that turned up at Cappielow was a far cry from the one that put two goals past Celtic last weekend.

Steven Naismith’s side looked off the pace for the majority of the game and it wasn’t until the game started to wear on Morton that Hearts managed to get on the front foot.

However, in the end, all that mattered for the visitors is a place in a Hampden semi-final.

What they said

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith: “We should’ve and could’ve scored earlier, but we knew it was about patience.

“If we kept working them, our opportunities would come and that is how it played out.”

Morton manager Dougie Imrie: “I thought we deserved to go through on the night.

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost to a top team, but that is cup football. They’ve got their opportunity and they’ve taken it.”

What’s next?

Hearts travel to Dingwall to take on Premiership strugglers Ross County (15:00 GMT) at the same time Greenock Morton face Partick Thistle in the Championship.

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