Scottish League Cup: Hearts beat Rovers on penalties, Stirling Albion win

John Souttar scores the decisive penalty for Heart of Midlothian against Raith Rovers
John Souttar's penalty secured Hearts a 4-2 victory in the shootout

Hearts earned a potentially vital bonus point after being held to a 1-1 draw by Raith Rovers in Scottish League Cup Group C.

John Souttar scored the decisive penalty in the ensuing shootout.

Kevin Nisbet had prodded third-tier Rovers ahead, but Michael Smith's 25-yard strike hauled Hearts level.

The club faces an SPFL disciplinary hearing on Monday after fielding an ineligible player in their win over Cove Rangers and may be docked points.

Craig Levein's side have five points from two matches and sit third in Group C.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up qualify to join Scotland's European representatives - Celtic, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibernian - in the last 16.

Elsewhere in Group C, Cowdenbeath beat Cove, of the Highland League, 1-0 in a replay of last year's League Two play-off encounter, courtesy of a late David Cox free-kick.

While in Group D, Stirling Albion claimed their first win in 11 competitive matches by overcoming Peterhead 2-0.

In Fife, an injury to last season's top scorer, Kyle Lafferty, darkened Hearts' afternoon and Nisbet worsened matters when he pounced to open the scoring.

The striker seized upon Grant Gillespie's scuffed shot and side-footed beyond stopper Zdenek Zlamal.

Hearts were eliminated at the group stage last season and laboured away in search of the goals that would help them avoid the same fate a year on.

For much of the second period, it looked as though their quest would prove fruitless.

Michael Smith scores for Heart of Midlothian against Raith Rovers
Michael Smith equalised for Hearts with a sensational long-distance drive

But, in the 78th minute, up stepped defender Smith, who, with his weaker left foot, rocketed a 25-yard shot into the top-left corner - his first competitive goal since November 2016.

Hearts swarmed forward in pursuit of a winner, peppering the Rovers box with crosses and long throw-ins.

Christophe Berra had his headed goal harshly disallowed after referee Don Robertson ruled a foul had been committed on goalkeeper Robbie Thomson.

The Rovers stopper and counterpart Zlamal saved a penalty apiece in the resultant shootout, but Ross Matthews blasted his spot-kick high over the crossbar to hand Hearts the advantage.

Souttar slammed the winning penalty in off the left upright, earning Hearts a 4-2 victory and two points, taking their tally to five from two matches.

The Tynecastle club are third in Group C, a point behind Cowdenbeath, who have played a game more, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Meanwhile, Peter MacDonald and Mark Stewart scored as Stirling Albion won for the first time since March.

Premiership Dundee host second-tier Dunfermline Athletic on Sunday.

League One Brechin City do not play this weekend.

Results

Group C

Raith Rovers 1-1 Heart of Midlothian (2-4 on penalties)

Cowdenbeath 1-0 Cove Rangers

Group D

Peterhead 0-2 Stirling Albion

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