Hearts recovered from a one goal deficit to record a dominant 5-1 victory over Falkirk in tonight’s SPFL Development League encounter at Ochilview.
Kyle Mitchell gave the visitors an early lead, but a Callumn Morrison hat-trick, a strike from Anthony McDonald and a Mitchell own-goal completed an emphatic comeback.
Andy Kirk made five changes to the side that ran out comprehensive 6-0 winners over Partick Thistle in Airdrie two weeks ago. In-form striker Aidan Keena was looking to build on his hat-trick from that match, and his subsequent first-team debut the following weekend.
Jack Hamilton took the place of Kelby Mason in goals, the youngster currently out on loan at Airdrieonians, while Daniel Baur, Alex Petkov, Rory Currie and Andy Irving came into the side for Bartolomiej Gajda, Angus Beith, Marc Leonard and Harry Cochrane, the latter left out after featuring for the senior side at the weekend.
The Wee Jambos almost got off to the perfect start when Rory Currie pounced on a misplaced pass to burst into the area. He held the ball up and squared it for Callumn Morrison, but the winger’s shot bounced down off the bar and back out.
Falkirk took the lead on fourteen minutes through a major stroke of luck. Kyle Mitchell took a shot from the edge of the area, but his free-kick took a wicked deflection and totally wrong-footed Jack Hamilton in goals.
The Bairns looked more confident now and Hearts were having to be on their guard. Hamilton made a great save to deny Mark Stowe, who had gotten in behind the defence, and that save was to prove crucial as Hearts levelled shortly after.
Currie played a reverse pass through to Anthony McDonald, who flicked the ball back to Morrison. The winger cut back, beat his marker and fired home a low shot from 16 yards, with a slight deflection, to get Hearts back on terms.
Hearts were on top now, and should have taken the lead on two separate occasions. First, Keena played McDonald through on goal but his shot was weak and saved. Then, Currie won the ball on the byline but elected to shoot when he had multiple team-mates in space as the half came to an end.
Hearts began the second half on the front foot too, with Andy Irving coming close from a ball first across the area that was knocked out for a corner. From the set-piece, Alex Petkov’s shot was blocked but Hearts would take the lead soon after.
Irving won the ball superbly in midfield and, looking up, slipped the ball through to Morrison who raced away from his marker, composing himself and hammering the ball home. Immediately after, Keena slid a pass through to McDonald but the keeper was out sharp to save.
The Jambos got their third just after the hour when McDonald, who had grown more impressively into the match, won the ball in the middle of the park. With sub Lewis Moore and Morrison providing decoy runs, the nimble playmaker drove into the box himself and sent a side foot finish home.
Confidence was flowing freely now, and the fourth goal duly arrived when Jay Sandison hit an excellent ball across the face of goal that was headed into his own net by the unfortunate Mitchell, who had now scored at both ends.
Morrison was hunting a hat-trick, and came close on 78 minutes when he dribbled across the penalty area and tried a left-footed shot from the edge of the area, but Mutch pushed the shot away. The winger did get his hat-trick on 85 minutes, however, when Moore’s deep cross found him at the back post.
With time, he showed great composure to fire home a drilled, first-time half-volley into the corner to make it five goals in two matches after his double two weeks ago against Partick Thistle. Keena then drew a superb save from Mutch as time died down, and there was no more scoring as Hearts ran out victors.
Hearts: J.Hamilton; Sandison, C.Hamilton, Baur, Reid; Petkov, Irving (Ritchie 75’); Morrison, Currie (Moore 61’), McDonald (Ward 79’); Keena. Subs: B.Gajda, W.Gajda, C.Smith, Paton.