A young Hearts Colts side was edged out of the Irn-Bru Cup this evening by Ross County, losing 2-1 at Tynecastle.
A Billy McKay brace proved decisive though the Wee Jambos gave a good account of themselves and went close on many occasions, pulling one back through Aidan Keena.
Andy Kirk was able to call upon the services of Colin Doyle and Ryan Edwards to supplement a team that featured Chris Hamilton, Harry Cochrane, Anthony McDonald and Callumn Morrison.
The visitors should’ve taken the lead after only two minutes. Harry Paton pounced on a loose ball to send McKay clean through inside the box, but he could only fire wide of the target.
They did take the lead a minute later. Doyle’s throw from the edge of the box was wayward and landed at the feet of McKay, who quickly chipped the ‘keeper from around 30-yards out and the ball sailed over his head and into the back of the net.
Hearts began to find their rhythm and enjoyed some penetration down the right. Cammy Logan’s 14th minute cross was met by Keena, but at an awkward angle he could only bullet a header into the stand.
Ross Munro was at his best to deny Edwards a stunning goal after 21 minutes. The Aussie saw an initial shot blocked at the edge of the box before performing a magnificent drag-and-turn away from two defenders, weaving his way into the box but his shot was tipped over the bar by Munro.
From the resulting corner, Hamilton connected with McDonald’s cross but headed inches wide of the target.
Ross County then saw a lot of possession and doubled their lead on the half hour mark. McKay latched onto a through ball and held off his man to dink the ball over the onrushing Doyle and into the back of the net.
Doyle was called into action with four minutes of the half remaining. Davis Keillor-Dunne advanced into the box from the right before drilling low on target, but the Irishman got down well to beat the ball away.
Hearts pulled one back in the 44th minute. A lovely passing move deep inside the Ross County half culminated in Keena playing a one-two with Cochrane before side-stepping his man and slamming the ball beyond Munro and into the bottom corner.
There were no changes at half-time, and ten minutes into the restart McKay went close to bagging his hat-trick. Harry Paton tore down the right to float a cross to the back door, but the County striker’s shot was well wide of the target.
Chances were then few and far between, with Brian Graham flashing a header across the face of goal and wide in the 64th minute.
Hearts had a massive penalty shout turned down two minutes later when Morrison swung a cross into the box and Keena went down under a challenge, but referee Gavin Duncan said no and, to add insult to injury, booked the striker for diving.
Keena was inches away from the equaliser after 70 minutes. He latched on to a loose ball outside the box and, with the ‘keeper off his line, lobbed the ball goalwards but it bounced agonisingly wide of Munro’s right-hand post by a matter of inches.
Hearts went close again in the 78th minute when Morrison fired over a cross from the left, right across the face of goal, but substitute Euan Henderson couldn’t connect.
The crossbar denied Hearts in stoppage time. Morrison's whipped cross found Burns inside the box and his header beat Munro but came crashing off the underside of the bar.
There was to be no equaliser for the young Jambos, who gave a good account of themselves over the 90 minutes against one the favourites for the Championship title.
Image courtesy of Ron MacNeill
Hearts Colts: Doyle, Logan, Burns, Hamilton, Baur, Petkov (Henderson, 73'), McDonald, Cochrane, Keena (Moore, 79'), Edwards, Morrison. Subs: Mason, C. Smith, Currie, Gajda, Ritchie.
Ross County: Munro, Morris, McKay, Demetriou, Dykes, Keillor-Dunn (R. Dingwall, 62'), Dow, Graham, T. Dingwall, Paton (Gallagher, 89'), Stewart (Morrison, 82'). Subs: Fox, Fraser, Kelly, MacIver.
Referee: Gavin Duncan