Hearts U-20 hopes gone with the wind

Missed chance: Gary Oliver
Missed chance: Gary Oliver
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Defensive lapses once more cost Hearts Under-20s dear as they went down to a 2-0 away defeat by their Inverness counterparts.

With Saturday’s SFA Youth Cup semi-final against Kilmarnock in mind, coach Robbie Neilson included Jordan McGhee, who has been short of game time lately, and Jamie Walker, making his first appearance since recovering from a broken foot in yesterday’s team, with the latter getting an 80-minute run-out.

First-team squad players Angus Beith, Gary Oliver and Paul McCallum were also given a game, the first two certain to be involved against Killie.

A stiff breeze gave the players a few problems, but Hearts, kicking against the elements, gave a good account of themselves in trying to play the ball on the ground without giving the Thistle defence much trouble with a lack of a cutting edge in the final third.

A header blocked in the six-yard box from Liam Gordon was the closest Hearts came to scoring while in reply goalkeeper Mark Ridgers had to look lively to keep out two efforts by Adam Evans.

Oliver should have opened the scoring on 48 minutes but his effort from inside the six-yard box, from an Aaron Scott cross, flew over the bar, and Thistle celebrated this let-off in forcing Ridgers into two brilliant saves, before Ally Sutherland opened the scoring on 59 minutes, poor defending allowing the Thistle player to score unmarked at the far post.

A Hearts mini-reshuffle made no difference to the flow of the play, and Thistle added a second goal on 75 minutes, substitute Jamie Wilson scoring from close range following more poor defending.

Hearts, who did not play as well with the wind, staged a late rally, Thistle keeper Nick Draper clawing away a strong Beith free-kick, then tipping a Nathan Flanagan shot onto and over the crossbar.

Hearts: Ridgers, Simpson, Gordon, McGhee, L Smith, Buchanan (Flanagan 60), A Scott (Craigie 65), Beith, Walker (Ford 80), McCallum, Oliver. Unused sub: Sneddon.