Hearts U20s fell to their first defeat in four matches as an Aberdeen side led by high-profile summer signing Greg Stewart came from behind to win a blustery encounter at Ochilview Park in Stenhousemuir.
The Jambos came into the fixture high on confidence after three wins on the bounce, but the side did lack some continuity from the line-up that won the previous week’s match.
Andy Kirk made six changes to the side that won last week’s dramatic encounter with Dundee United at Tannadice, as a combination of injuries and first-team call-ups forced a tactical reshuffle. First-teamers Krystian Nowak and last week’s matchwinner Malaury Martin weren’t involved, while Harry Cochrane, Jamie Brandon and Euan Henderson’s senior side exploits saw them rested, along with Aidan Keena.
Into the side came Kelby Mason between the sticks, Bartolomiej Gajda, Alex Petkov, Lewis Moore and current loanees Dario Zanatta and Callumn Morrison, both enjoying successful spells with Raith Rovers and Stirling Albion in the lower leagues.
Zanatta had the first opportunity of the game, when he made space inside the area to test Danny Rogers with a left-footed effort that the former Falkirk loanee had to look sharp to save, but his goal wasn’t far from coming.
Rory Currie pounced on a short pass in the Aberdeen back-line and broke into the visitors’ half. He played a cool pass inside to Angus Beith, who slipped the ball across to Zanatta who fired the ball home to give Hearts the lead.
The windy conditions were proving difficult for both sides, and Aberdeen were the team to benefit from having a gust at their back in the second half, and they quickly took advantage by levelling after a minute of the half. Hearts were caught out by a short corner, and Frank Ross bundled the ball home.
Beith had a glorious chance to put Hearts back in front on 68 minutes, but he fired over inside the area, and Hearts were made to pay for that miss two minutes later when Greg Stewart cut across the penalty box and slid the ball home to give the Dons the lead.
Beith then had a free-kick from distance pushed wide by Rogers as Hearts sought to find a way back into the match, but the Wee Jambos were unable to breach the Dons backline, and the visitors added gloss to their victory with an excellent strike two minutes from time by their captain Dean Campbell.
Hearts: Mason; Hamilton, B.Gajda, Baur; Morrison, Petkov, Beith, Reid; Currie, Zanatta, Moore. Subs: W.Gajda, Leonard, McDonald, Keena, K.Smith, Irving, Sandison.