Hearts ultimately proved too strong for Stirling to book their place in the last 16 of the Premier Sports Cup on a very warm evening at Forthbank.

Supporters made a welcome return for the first time since March 2020, albeit the numbers were limited to season ticket holders and the attendance was 211.

The pitch was in perfect condition and Stirling performed well against their Premiership opponents in the first meeting between the teams since August 2007 when Hearts also won 2-0.

Kevin Rutkiewicz made six changes to the team from Saturday, with Ross McGeachie, Kyle Banner, Dylan Bikey, Kurtis Roberts, Dale Carrick and Sean Heaver coming in. Rabin Omar was suspended after two yellow cards and fellow midfielder Ray Grant was still sidelined.

Teenage midfielder Kyle Johnston was among the substitutes and made his first-team debut as a replacement for Kurtis Roberts with 10 minutes left.

Hearts named a strong-looking line-up and Scotland internationalist Craig Gordon notched up a 10th clean sheet in a row as Robbie Neilson’s side maintained their 100% record in the section.

Stirling emerged from the 90 minutes with no points but plenty of encouragement. They started both halves well and Bikey tested Gordon after only 30 seconds while Carrick had a good opportunity superbly blocked early in the second period.

There was little between the teams in the opening half-hour but the men from Tynecastle went ahead with a quality goal in 31 minutes. Gary Mackay-Steven played in Liam Boyce with a clever flick and last season’s Championship top scorer fired a shot low past Blair Currie.

The Binos were in the game until the last 20 minutes when Finlay Pollock scored his first goal for the Gorgie club. The teenager converted from close range after being picked out by recent recruit Alex Cochrane.

Stirling Albion: Currie, McGeachie, McNiff (Creaney 81), Banner, McGregor (Cummins 75), Laird (McLean 65), Bikey, Roberts (Johnston 81), Carrick, Leitch (Flanagan 75), Heaver. Subs (not used): Law (GK), Moore, Mackin, Summers.

Hearts: Gordon, M Smith, Kingsley, Souttar, Haring (Gnanduillet 68), Boyce (Walker 80), Mackay-Steven (McEneff 80), Halliday, Cochrane (C Smith 85), Halkett, Ginnelly (Pollock 68). Subs (not used): Stewart (GK) Henderson, Popescu, Damour.

Goals: Boyce 31, Pollock 74

Referee: Grant Irvine