Naismith: Improvement in both boxes11 December 2022
Hearts had started brightly, and soon raced into a 2-0 lead. Murray Thomas delivered two inviting corners from the left-hand side and Adam Forrester was waiting to finish them off for two virtually identical goals early in the first half.
The Wee Jambos were in complete control of the game, but when Harry Stone was controversially booked for handling the ball outside his penalty box, Gretna halved the deficit from the resulting free kick to set up a tense second half.
The boss acknowledged the scrappiness of the latter stages, but was full of praise for how his young side dealt with the physicality of their opponents.
“The opponents were slightly similar in terms of their shape and some of the things they did in the game, but Gretna were always going to be a tougher test and that’s the way it was today,” he explained.
“It turned into a bit of a fight in the end. We got two really good goals from good set plays and a lot of our build-up play was really good. At this time of the year the pitch is on the turn, and it just makes it a bit more awkward.
“I think that stopped us from taking a few more chances. That last wee bit in the final third just wasn’t as tidy as it has been recently.
“I thought Aidan Denholm was really good. He controlled the whole game. Towards the end, he was trying to put his foot on the ball and give us a bit of calmness. His energy was brilliant and as a team, they did commit more bodies forward, but we dealt with it really well.
“Our defenders got in their positions early; they were aggressive, and it meant they never got any momentum towards the end of the game which was very pleasing.”
The boss was delighted for the goalscorer, Forrester:
“Adam is a threat. He has scored a hat-trick for the under 18’s this season. He is a young player who has come into this group and played right back when he normally would play centre back so for him to do that has been brilliant.
“He has that old-fashioned mentality of an aggressive no-nonsense defender. That is a great foundation for him to build on his footballing skills and his decision making. It was a great day for him.”
The Wee Jambos have had their problems defending set pieces this season, but Naismith explained today was a prime of example of how his players have improved at both ends of the pitch.
“I think we have improved in both boxes and today was a prime example of that,” he said.
“As a team, the older lads are getting us organised early and we’re learning from our mistakes.
“This whole season was a progression. If we get to the end of the season and these players haven’t developed then it’s pointless, but there has been progression so far and there has to be more.”
Naismith finished by congratulating 16-year-old, Bobby McLuckie, who was on the bench for the first team at Tynecastle.
“We lost Bobby today to the first team. Bobby is a kid who got a great taste of under 18’s last year and this season he has pushed right on and has been one of our main players in the B Team and he’s only 16 which is amazing.
“He gets on the bench today and that shows everyone else in this group what you have to do. You come in here, you listen, work hard, and play well, you progress, and you get in the first team. That is the goal, it has to be the goal.”