Motherwell Under 19s crashed to a dissapointing 2-1 home defeat to Hearts at Bathgate’s Creamery Park this morning.
The visitors took the lead after just thirteen minutes when Billy King drilled home from close range after good build-up play from David Smith on the left flank.
Motherwell drew level with eleven minutes left of the first half when Keiran McGachie headed home a Nicky Devlin cross. However, Gordon Young’s men couldn’t hold to half-time as King grabbed his and Hearts’ second of the match with a bouncing free-kick from the edge of the area.
Motherwell battled away in the second and could, and perhaps should, have drawn level when McGachie pounced on a rebounded shot but slipped at the vital moment, trunding an effort wide when a goal looked certain.
There were several new faces in the Motherwell squad for the new season. Former Spurs defender Zane Francis-Angol lined up at full-back along with Nicky Devlin, a summer recruit from Dumbarton, taking his place on the opposite side. Englishman Steve Hetherington made his U19s debut in the middle of the park and promotee’s from the Under 17’s Darren Brownlie and Adam Ashgar took their place in the starting eleven.
Hearts finished runners-up to Celtic in last season’s Clydesdale Bank Under 19s league and they started the match looking as if they were keen to go one better this time around.
A foul by Brownlie on Jason Holt allowed the visitors a shot at goal after just six minutes. Right-back Fraser Mullens would take the kick but his effort flew harmlessly over the bar.
Hearts continued to attack and had the ball in the net two minutes later when Mullens’ cross from the right was headed home by Smith inside the six yard. However, the referee had already stopped the game and the goal wouldn’t count.
Ryan Stewart posted further warning of Hearts’ intent with a shot from the edge of the box that zipped just over the bar before the visitors took the lead.
Striker Smith did well on the right flank to dance round two challenges, work space and cut-back for the waiting King. He somehow managed to squirm away from Euan Murray inside the area before drilling a low right-footed shot through Willie Muir and into the net.
Hearts immediately went in search of a second and a Dale O’Hara free-kick from the left touchline fell fortuitously at the feet of Chris Tobin but his half-volley from about ten yards spun harmlessly wide of Muir’s post.
It took the Steelmen thirty minutes to really get going and they finally made Hearts work at the back with a well-worked move. McGachie won the ball on the half-way line and immediately sent Josh Watt scampering down the right flank. Watt, called into the Scotland U19s squad, thundered past O’Hara before delivering a terrific ball across the face of goal that just evaded Lee Erwin inside the six yard box.
That seemed to give Young’s men a much-needed confidence boost and they drew level four minutes later thanks to a good header from Keiran McGachie. Devlin and Watt combined on the right allowing the former to deliver a tantalising cross into the area that was met by the Stenny-born striker. His header hit the base of the post before spinning into the net for his first of the season.
Hearts battled back and almost got themselves back in front when Calum Patterson met a Mullens corner from the right but his header dropped the wrong side of Muir’s right hand upright.
However, it was a warning shot across the bow that ‘Well failed to heed as the Jambos did eventually get back ahead on the stroke of half-time and it was that man King again who would grab the goal.
25-yards out, King stroke a low free-kick that bounced cruelly just in front of Muir before squirming into the net. It was a difficult one for the young stopper to deal with and a cruel blow for the Steelmen just seconds before the interval.
There were no changes at the break as Hearts started the second much as they finished the first. Jason Holt almost grabbed their third just three minutes in when he worked space for himself inside the Motherwell penalty area but his low shot was well stopped by Muir low to his right hand post.
However, Motherwell would pass up a great chance after 51 minutes when McGachie ran out of luck at the vital time. Hetherington started the move, teeing it up for Erwin on the edge of the area. The former Scotland U17 striker unleashed a stinging effort that forced Jack Hamilton to parry. The ball screwed out for the former Hearts youngster but he wouldn’t punish his former side; slipping at the vital second, his shot went harmlessly wide of the post with a grounded Hamilton relieved to watch it bounce past.
The game hit a bit of a lull as both teams traded possession without creating much in the way of chances. That was interrupted twenty-five minutes into the half when King fancied a hat-trick but was denied when his shot from distance was comfortably saved by Muir in the home goal.
Hearts continued to look the more likely to add to the lead and Holt flashed another shot which Muir had to watch fizz past his post.
On the stroke of full-time, Muir in the Motherwell goal pulled off two terrific saves to keep the scoreline respectable. The first, from substitute Dale Carrick, was an excellent two-handed stop when the striker raced through on goal. The other was from a late Mullens free-kick with the young keeper was more than a match, pushing away the low bouncing effort with the rebound hooked into touch.
The game ended shortly after with Hearts running out deserved winners on chances created. ‘Well return to action next weekend when they face a trip to Kilwinning to face Kilmarnock.
Motherwell: Muir, Fancis-Angol (Lynch – 70mins), Murray, Brownlie, Devlin, MacDonald, Ashgar (Leitch – 80mins), Hetherington, Watt (Green – 73mins), McGachie, Erwin
Subs Not Used: Stewart, McLean, Moore
Goals: McGachie (34mins)
Hearts: Hamilton, Mullens, O’Hara, Patterson, McKay, Kane, Stewart (Carrick – 85mins), Tobin, Smith, Holt,B.King
Subs Not Used: Carswell, Scott, A.King, Thomson, Nicholson
Goals: King (13, 45)