Trials without tribulations leave Hearts edging towards another two signings following Saturday’s win over East Fife.
A straightforward afternoon for the visitors in Methil saw trialists Prince Buaben and Osman Sow both stand out and score to stake their claims for a contract, leaving head coach Robbie Neilson mightily impressed.
Buaben was due to complete his move to Tynecastle today after stroking the first goal in Hearts’ 3-0 win. Sow, a 6ft 4in Swedish striker pictured below, will get the rest of the week to further endear himself to Neilson having only arrived in Edinburgh on Friday night. On Saturday’s evidence, Hearts would be crazy to reject him.
“We’d heard some reports on him. He was put forward to is so we watched some DVDs of him,” explained Neilson. “I wanted to get him over here and have a look in the flesh, also to see what kind of character he is. He’ll stay with us for a few days. I’m happy with what we’ve got in the squad. I’d like to add one or two to it, but if need be I can wait. If Oz (Sow) happens, then great. If not, we’ll continue to look.”
The travelling fans gave Sow, 24, a standing ovation when he was replaced by Dale Carrick in the second half. He showcased a repertoire of strength, pace, awareness, link-up play and no little ball skill. He also scored an opportunist’s goal to make it 3-0. His CV includes spells in Sweden and Moldova as well as Crystal Palace, where he spent last season as a team-mate of recent Hearts signing Neil Alexander.
“He was injured at the start of the season so he couldn’t get into the 25-man squad until January,” explained the goalkeeper. “He’s got loads of ability and enthusiasm and he wants to work hard. We’re looking for someone up top to hold the ball up and bring others into play. I thought he did well.
“It was a fantastic reception he got from the supporters. It just shows you that, when you give 100 per cent, the fans appreciate it. He got his reward with a goal. He’s a wee bit rusty but there’s more to come from him.”
Buaben has been offered a one-year contract to renew his central midfield partnership with former Dundee United team-mate Morgaro Gomis. Their combination play was a big feature of the win in Fife.
“We’re looking at a year for Prince and that’s been tabled,” continued Neilson. “One, he’s a good player, two he’s a good character, and three he’s got that understanding with Morgaro, which makes a massive difference. He’s one of those guys who you can ask to do something and he’ll just do it for you. He’s good to have about the place.
“I think they’re a really good pairing. Prince hasn’t trained a lot so there’s still quite a lot to come from him. Morgaro is great as well so it’s pleasing.”
In the only blemish on his day, Sow lashed a 20-yard free-kick at goal midway through the first half, but could only watch it soar out towards the corner flag. He began redeeming himself immediately with a pivotal role in the opening goal. He fed Billy King for a powerful drive which rebounded off the post. Buaben, however, was thereto stroke home the rebound.
A classy finish by Gary Oliver – another standout – was then disallowed for offside, but the teenager etched his name on the scoresheet with a glancing header from King’s corner 11 minutes from the interval.
Kevin McHattie then stung the palms of Allan Fleming, the East Fife goalkeeper, with a driven free-kick and the interval arrived with the visitors looking comfortable.
Sow’s debut goal came after the break, although it was a gift from the East Fife defence. Fleming’s touch from Ewan Moyes’ passback was heavy and the onrushing Swede was alert to slide in ahead of the keeper and prod the ball into the net.
After a penetrating run from Gomis, Sow had an opportunity to score again, but Fleming’s left hand smothered the ball. The Swede’s movement, link-up play and technical ability were impressive, hence the rapturous applause when he came off.
Subs disrupted much of the second half. Even the Bayview PA to gave up on 78 minutes when six young Hearts players appeared on the touchline waiting to come on: “A mass substitution for Heart of Midlothian. I’ll leave that for the Hearts fans to work out for themselves,” was the announcement.
Five of the six were appearing for the first time at first-team level – Nathan Flanagan, Ian Smith, Sean McKirdy, Aaron Scott and Liam Buchanan. The teenagers enjoyed their run-out but they may well have learned even more while watching Buaben and Sow from the bench.
East Fife (4-1-4-1): Fleming; Mullen, Moyes, S Campbell, S Smith (Naysmith 73); Walker (Honeyman 66); Austin (McAleer 55), Brown (Barr 27), K Smith (Maskrey 84), Beaton (Wooley 73); McShane (R Campbell 66). Sub: Rooney.
Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson, McHattie (Henderson 78); King (Flanagan 78), Buaben (McKirdy 78), Gomis (Scott 78), Nicholson (Buchanan 78); Sow (Carrick 72), Oliver (I Smith). Sub: Hamilton.
Referee: Craig Charleston.