Hearts U20s won out a thrilling encounter with a superb comeback against SPFL Development League leaders Motherwell tonight at Ochilview in Stenhousemuir.
Doubles from the outstanding Lewis Moore and Euan Henderson won the match for Hearts, who had trailed after only five minutes. Motherwell did level at 2-2, but Hearts were too good going forward in the second half and deservedly saw the match out as victors.
Andy Kirk made two changes to the Hearts U20s side following last week’s defeat to Celtic. Both changes came in defence, as Jay Sandison and Bartholomiej Gajda were replaced by Jamie Brandon and Chris Hamilton.
The Wee Jambos started on the front foot, and ‘Well keeper Peter Morrison had to look sharp to deny Lewis Moore at the back post following a neat one-two. However, the visitors struck first.
Dylan King reacted quickest from an inswinging set-piece to volley the ball past Kelby Mason with just six minutes on the clock. Hearts’ response came quickly, though.
With Henderson, who had started wide on the right, now playing through the middle, the forward was found by a well-timed slide-rule pass by Alex Petkov, and his immense speed saw him outpace the ‘Well defence.
He rounded Morrison and, though his first shot was cleared off the line, hammered the ball home at the second attempt. Five minutes later, Hearts took the lead for the first time in the match.
Aidan Keena, now playing wide right, whipped in a superb cross that was controlled brilliantly by Moore, who cut inside his marker and fired home from close range.
Moore came close again on two occasions soon after. First, he beat the offside trap but Morrison was out quickly to deny him. Then the winger hit an overhead kick just wide of the post.
The visitors levelled on 35 minutes. First team player Elliott Frear slipped in George Newell, and the forward made no mistake in placing the ball past Mason from just inside the penalty area.
Into the second half, a neat bit of footwork saw Keena hacked down on the edge of the box, but the striker’s free-kick was straight down Morrison’s throat, and the keeper held easily.
Hearts took the lead just after the hour mark. Jamie Brandon tried his luck from distance with a half volley, which Morrison spilled right in front of Henderson who hammered home his second.
Keena was next to have an attempt at goal. The Irish forward found space at the corner of the box but his curling effort bounced off the bar. Petkov then let fly from long range, but Morrison turned his shot round the post.
Hearts put the result beyond doubt with 5 minutes remaining. Brandon sent Moore clear down the left on a counter, and the winger easily outpaced his marker before cutting into the box and hitting a deflected shot home.
Hearts U20s: Mason, Brandon (B.Gajda, 85), Reid, Hamilton, Baur, Petkov, Moore, Cochrane (Ritchie, 73), Keena (MacDonald, 83), Currie, Henderson. Subs: W. Gajda, B. Gajda, Leonard, MacDonald, Ritchie, K. Smith, C. Smith.