Hearts Under-20s brought the first half of the season to a close with a 2-0 league defeat by Kilmarnock at New Victoria Park, Newtongrange.
This game was switched from Rugby Park at Killie’s request with the corresponding fixture, postponed earlier in the season, to be played at Kilmarnock later in the campaign.
Due to injuries – and Sam Nicholson and Gary Oliver ruled out after starting for the first team on Saturday – Hearts made a few changes to the team that had strung together some impressive results in the past few weeks.
Hearts began the better side and dominated the first 15 minutes, during which Robbie Buchanan fired a shot wide and Liam Smith had a powerful 30-yard drive clawed away by the visitors’ goalkeeper, Conor Brennan.
Kilmarnock, however, gradually eased themselves into the game, with Hearts stopper Jack Hamilton forced to make two fine saves from Robbie Muirhead and Jude Winchester, before Killie opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Dylan Pooler collected a through ball and rounded the on-rushing Hamilton before chipping into the net.
Two minutes later, Muirhead should have added a second, but somehow flashed a 12-yard shot over an empty net.
Four minutes from half-time, Hearts defender Angus Beith hit a shot against the underside of the crossbar, with the after-match video footage inconclusive as to whether the ball had bounced down over the line.
Hearts took off Brad McKay and Adam King at half-time, with Saturday’s first-team game in mind, and ten minutes into the second half Billy King, another who makes up the first-team squad, had a shot saved by Brennan.
This was to be Hearts’ last decent attempt at goal, as the well-organised Kilmarnock side took control, with Hamilton having to pull of a handful of fine saves.
Hearts were reduced to ten men when Beith was sent off for a second booking on 85 minutes and, two minutes later, Muirhead added a second goal for the visitors with a strong 25-yard shot after the Hearts rearguard failed to clear their lines.
Hearts coach Robbie Neilson acknowledged that he had to field a younger squad than in the last few weeks, but the experience will have done the youngsters no harm.
Hearts Under-20s: Hamilton, L Smith, McKay (Jones 45), Gordon, Ford, Buchanan, A King (Craigie 45), A Scott (Simpson 55), Beith, B King, Carrick. Unused subs: Sneddon, McKirdy.
Kilmarnock Under-20s: Brennan, Hawkshaw, Davidson, Barbour, Thomson, Splaine, Syme, Pooler, Hainey, Winchester, Muirhead. Unused subs: Watt, Taylor, Clark, Dempster.