Craig Levein has insisted Hearts deserved to progress to the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup but admitted they had to rely on goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal for their victory over Dunfermline.
The Czech number one produced three superb second-half saves to keep their Ladbrokes Championship hosts at bay as Olly Lee’s late goal sealed a 1-0 win for the Premiership side.
Zlamal denied Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who also struck the post in the first half, as well as Danny Devine and Aidan Connolly to send the high-flying Tynecastle team into the last eight of the competition.
Levein said: “Maybe I’m a bit hard to please, but I’d have expected him to save two of those. The last one was an outstanding save, though.
“It was a strange game towards the end.
“It was pretty even in the first half and I felt we controlled the game in the second half.
“It was a tough match and I got pretty what we expected, which was an in-form Dunfermline side.
“They are full of confidence, they played well and they ran us close.
“I said to the players afterwards that it was never going to be easy. Dunfermline tested us for the full 90 minutes.
“But I do think we did deserve to go through.”
Lee struck with 11 minutes remaining as he drilled his shot through the legs of Devine, to the delight of the 4,600-strong travelling support.
Levein added: “It was a good goal from Olly.
“I like when he gets close to the goal because he is very accurate with his shooting.
“There wasn’t much space for him but he found the bottom corner.”
Defeat was tough on Dunfermline who matched their top-flight opponents throughout an enthralling 90 minutes.
But manager Allan Johnston preferred to concentrate on his side’s display, rather than the result.
The former Hearts winger said: “I’m disappointed to lose but it was the manner of the performance.
“I thought the boys were different class and gave everything against a strong Hearts team – and pushed them all the way.
“On another day, we could quite easily have won.
“The score flattered Hearts. We looked the much better team in terms of passing it and movement and chances created. So, it’s disappointing when you come away empty-handed.
“The boys gave everything. You never like to get beaten but I can’t really complain about the performance.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P