Makenzie Kirk netted deep into injury time to secure a thrilling 3-2 triumph over Celtic in a pulsating Club Academy Scotland clash at Oriam.
The Wee Jambos came from behind to sink the Celts in a gutsy display, having gone into the break two down and seeing goalkeeper Liam McFarlane forced off through injury.
Hearts hit back and Michael Aitken’s header, along with two strikes from Kirk, wrapped up the win for Steven Naismith’s side.
In a game played at breakneck pace at the national performance centre, both sides traded short, sharp punches, with the two teams flying at each other from the off.
Celtic found some joy down the left in these early moments, with Mitchell Frame and Jude Bonnar overlapping well to keep Mackenzie Ross on his toes. An entertaining start was interrupted with Hearts ‘keeper Liam McFarlane forced off injured just before the ten-minute mark, Zach Paris replacing him from the bench.
Hearts displayed some clever movements but struggled to keep the ball at times - Celtic punished the young guns, pouncing on every slack pass that forced Hearts to quickly shore up the barriers.
Lewis Dobbie registered the first chance of the game for the visitors, seeing his header flash narrowly over Paris’ crossbar. Naisy’s boys responded in turn: both Kirk and Murray Thomas forcing two reaction saves from Rory Mahady in the Hoops goal.
It was Thomas that went closest, catching Mahady off his line and facing an empty net – but could only squeeze the shot into the side netting from a tight angle. At the other end of the park, Paris was kept busy – pulling off a number of saves in an impressive appearance from the bench.
Celtic were still ruthlessly efficient in attack, nearly scoring once more after 27 minutes when Makenzie Kirk’s pass was cut out by Colby Donovan on the counter. Donovan went through on Paris, who produced another fine stop to halt the Celtic advance. Kirk hit back, smacking the Celtic bar from a whopping 30-yards.
The Glasgow side chipped away however, and eventually bagged the first goal of the night. Marauding left-back Mitchell Frame charged up the flank, going all the way before slotting the ball home to hand the Hoops the opener.
A sucker-punch was next: Aidan Haddow squeezing the ball beyond Paris at the back post to send Celtic into the break two to the good.
Hearts knew they had a mountain to climb. Far from their best, Naisy demanded more from his young charges as the teams emerged for the second 45. The Wee Jambos didn’t back down, and when Murray Thomas broke through the Celtic line early, you felt something was coming.
That feeling arrived in the shape of a Makenzie Kirk goal: the striker tucking the ball home from close range after 53 minutes to throw Hearts a lifeline.
With the bit now between their teeth, Hearts threw themselves at Celtic with renewed vigour. The two sides went back and forth up the park, an even encounter that was entertaining for the assembled spectators.
Callum Flatman and Murray Thomas again went close, but as the minutes dragged on – it looked as though Hearts were running out time.
With the full-time whistle edging ever closer, the boys in maroon were handed a golden chance to get things back on level terms. A cross field ball from Michael Aitken picked out Thomas on the edge of the area. The attacker drove forward before being bundled over in the area.
The penalty was given, and Kirk stepped up – sending it into the arms of the Celtic ‘keeper to send the visitors into raptures.
Their joy was short-lived.
In an epic conclusion, Hearts scored twice in stoppage time! A McLuckie cross was nodded home by Aitken, pulling it back. Celtic were completely rattled by this, and when Makenzie Kirk stepped forward once again – he made no mistake this time.
Distpatching a cool finish beyond Mahady, the Wee Jambos had won it with just seconds remaining. Well done to Naisy’s boys.
Up next: an Edinburgh derby against Hibs at East Mains on Friday.
The Hearts XI: McFarlane, Rathie, Aitken, Flatman, McLuckie, Simpson, Ross, Sandilands, Tait, Thomas, Kirk
Subs: Paris, Hambrook, Forrester, Drysdale, Nair, Wilson, Gordon