Hearts Under 20s coach Jon Daly hailed a good week for the wee Jambos after they followed up last week’s Youth Scottish Cup semi-final victory with a 2-1 derby win over Hibs at Ochilview tonight.
A first-half Robbie Buchanan stunner and a second half Dario Zanatta penalty were enough for Hearts despite Jordan Sinclair’s late penalty to reduce arrears.
Daly voiced his pleasure after a successful seven days. “It’s been a very good week,” he said. “I was delighted with the performance tonight, I thought the boys were excellent and we got what we deserved. It was an uncomfortable last few minutes when they got a goal back and it gives them big lift but the boys held out well and saw the game out.”
Aside from a couple of early corners apiece, neither side managed to fashion anything clear cut in the opening stages. Hibs did manage a direct attempt on goal via Ben Stirling, but his shot from distance was sliced well wide.
The visitors probably should have gone ahead on 24 minutes. Sean Mackie, making his Hibs debut after signing from Raith Rovers, sent a corner high towards the back post. The on-rushing Jamie Gullan stooped to meet it, but put his header from close range fell wide of Jack Hamilton’s right-hand post.
A strong run from Zanatta on the half hour opened things up for Hearts skipper Angus Beith to have a go, but his placed shot didn’t possess anything like the power or pace needed to trouble Sean Brennan.
Buchanan showed his captain how it’s done just five minutes later, however.
He took possession from a throw-in before twisting and turning on to his right foot at the edge of the area and sent a wonderful curling effort over Brennan and into the top corner, a goal adding to his winner in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
In an almost identical chance to Gullan’s previously, Hibs’ Ryan Porteous headed wide at the back post when he should have buried a free kick delivery from Aaron Dunsmore. Dunsmore himself then stung the palms of Hamilton soon after, the Hearts keeper gathering at the second attempt.
The second half largely followed the same pattern as the early stages of the first, another wayward Stirling shot five minutes after the hour the sum total of attempts on goal.
Hearts were then handed the chance to make the game safe from the spot with just under 15 remaining. Zanatta spun onto a mis-hit Sean McKirdy shot, but was hauled down in front of goal by Jordan McGregor. The Canadian Under 20 internationalist picked himself up to slam the spot kick low beyond he dive of Brennan.
Hibs were then given a penalty of their own to try and ensure a nervy last three minutes for Daly’s side. Hamilton was adjudged to have brought down Adam Watson despite claims he had saved the wide man’s shot first. Sinclair made no mistake from 12 yards to reduce the deficit.
Zanatta signed a new three-year deal with the club last week, and Daly believes the Canadian is an example for others to follow.
“Our goal is to try and get as many into the first team as we can,” he explained. “Dario and Liam Smith are examples for the lads to look up to and emulate. We’re delighted for Dario, he’s thoroughly earned his new contract and he just needs to keep doing what he’s done tonight by scoring goals and keep knocking on the door of the first team.”