Motherwell Under 20s crashed to a 3-0 defeat against Hearts at Newtongrange Star’s New Victoria Park this evening.
Two penalty kicks converted by Angus Beith and a super strike from Robbie Buchanan handed Hearts the win that was perhaps a little more handsome than the Steelmen deserved.
Jonatan Johansson made three changes to the side that lost narrowly to Aberdeen six days ago. Lee Hollis, Euan Murray and Fraser Johnstone dropped out, replaced by Max Currie, Ben Hall and Craig McCall.
That meant the Fir Parkers lined up with nine 17-year olds in the first eleven; Motherwell’s youngest ever side at Under 20s level.
Despite the age disadvantage, the visitors made the better start to the match and created the first real chance of the game after twelve minutes. A good move down the left finished with David Ferguson’s teasing cross towards the near post. Dale Shirkie was there but could only prod wide.
Hearts had the ball in the net ten minutes later but, to be fair, the assistant’s flag was up before Sam Daniel had got his shot away. A minute later, Jack Simpson presented another chance for the Hearts left-winger, but he scooped it high over the bar from twelve yards.
With just over ten minutes to go to the break, Ferguson connected with a deep Steven Higgins cross, but could only turn his header back across goal before Hearts cleared.
Incredibly, the home side went immediately down the park and got themselves in front from the penalty spot. It was a harsh call on Morgyn Neill, the ball appeared to hit his knee and spun onto his hand, but a penalty it was.
Beith was in no mood for sympathy, slamming it high and hard into the top right corner.
Incredibly, in what was an even match, Hearts doubled their advantage just four minutes later. There was no debate on this one though; Buchanan weaved his way past two challenges before curling a magnificent effort high into the top corner.
‘Well were shell-shocked but could and probably should have reduced the arrears minutes before the interval. Dale Shirkie got on the end of a ball over the top but could only fire a shot straight at Hamilton in the home goal.
The Lanarkshire side made a decent start to the second half too. McCafferty could have got amongst the goals but didn’t connect properly with his half volley at the back post. Thomas then flashed a long-range effort high and wide.
Johansson’s men came even closer after 52 minutes when McCafferty got on the end of Thomas’ cross from the left, but his effort deflected back of Hearts’ crossbar.
Shirkie and Higgins both fired over and Cadden came close after getting on the end of McCafferty’s deflected cross, but Hamilton smothered at the second attempt.
Then, the big moment of the second half came with nineteen minutes left to play.
Hearts burst down the left before Danny McNulty tripped Elliot Ford in the area. The full-back, booked earlier, collected a second yellow and was sent for an early bath.
Beith would again take the kick, and smashed it hard down the middle to confirm all three points.
To their credit, ‘Well continued to work and could have got amongst the goals when Neill headed a Thomas free-kick straight at the keeper before Higgins brought out another decent block from Hamilton with a long-range free-kick.
It was a frustrating evening for the Steelmen, who created more chances in the game but weren’t clinical and didn’t trouble the Hearts keeper enough. They will look to get back to winning ways next Tuesday against Dundee Untied.
Motherwell: Currie, McNulty, Ferguson, Hall, Neill, McCall (Johnstone – 70mins), McCafferty (Mackin – 70mins), Cadden, Shirkie, Thomas, Higgins
Subs Not Used: Morrison, McMillan, R.Leitch