Goals from Gary Mackay-Steven and Liam Boyce gave Hearts a 2-0 win at Peterhead in the opening game of the Premier Sports Cup at Balmoor Stadium.
The League 1 side competed well against the Premiership newcomers but Hearts’ cutting edge in the final third proved the difference against a makeshift Blue Toon.
Jim McInally was without key players including captain Scott Brown and Jason Brown for the visit of the Jambos and Simon Ferry lined up at centre-half alongside Andrew McDonald in a reshaped Blue Toon backline.
The visitors threatened early as Michael Smith found space down the right to pick out Liam Boyce with his cross but the former Ross County striker curling his eight yard shot past the post.
Gary Mackay-Steven also went close in the 13th minute when he ran on to Stephen Kingsley’s through ball and took the ball past Lenny Wilson in the Peterhead goal but from a wide angle his attempted lob landed on the roof of the net.
Russell McLean was Peterhead’s main attacking outlet but all the chances came the way of the visitors and Wilson had to look sharp to deny Boyce after the striker had been set-up by Peter Haring.
The pressure was building towards the Peterhead goal and Hearts’ finally got their breakthrough goal in the 31st minute through Mackay-Steven with the winger racing in behind Josh Mulligan to score despite Wilson getting a touch on his shot.
Peterhead came out in determined mood after the break but it was Hearts who continued to carry the greater attacking threat and from Aaron McNeff’s delivery at a free kick Boyce sent a glancing header just wide before Smith picked up Haring on the edge of the box but the midfielder sent his powerful first-time effort over the crossbar.
The Blue Toon finally created a chance of note in the 53rd minute as McLean outmuscled John Souttar before lifting the ball over Jambos captain Craig Gordon only to see the ball bounce the wrong side of the post.
The chance came during Peterhead’s best spell of the game but their eagerness to find an early equaliser cost them as Hearts broke away to double their lead in the 58th minute as a diagonal ball sent Smith clear down the right and the full back’s cross found Boyce in space and he slotted the ball low past Wilson to make it 2-0.
The second goal knocked the wind from Peterhead’s sails and Hearts came close to third when Alex Cochrane found Mackay-Steven in the box but the winger fired just wide with the goalkeeper to beat.
The game petered out in the final 15 minutes but Peterhead boss Jim McInally will be pleased with his players’ efforts against their full-time opponents.
The Blue Toon are in action again on Tuesday when they travel to Caley Thistle.