A HISTORIC day on Edinburgh’s outskirts ended with a 2-2 draw between Hibs and Hearts youth teams inside the new Oriam sports complex. The SPFL Development League match drew a good crowd for an indoor fixture at Scotland’s newest footballing venue.
Ann Budge, Robbie Neilson and Neil Lennon were all in attendance for what is often known as the mini Edinburgh derby. The full fixture is again missing from this season’s fixture list, with Hearts in the Ladbrokes Premiership and Hibs a tier below. That gave added significance to this game at the start of the Under-20s’ league campaign.
This was Hibs’ home game as they have booked the Oriam complex for all under-20 home fixtures this season. They twice took the lead through the outstanding 17-year-old Jamie Gullan, only to be hauled level on both occasions by Bjorn Johnsen and Russell McLean. A draw was, in truth, a fair reflection of the talent on show.
“I think 2-2 is a fair result,” said the Hibs under-20 coach Grant Murray. “I was delighted with Jamie. This is his first season playing full-time football and he scored two good goals. We’re a bit disappointed not to win having been ahead twice, but both teams had overage players playing and that made a difference.
“We’ve got this arena for all our matches this season, which is fantastic. I know this place has more connection to Hearts than Hibs but that didn’t bother us. We were eager to get the season started having not played for two weeks. I thought we competed well and scored two good goals.”
Jon Daly, the Hearts under-20 coach, was disappointed by the two goals his team conceded: “I thought it was an even game, there was some good football played but we aren’t happy with the goals we lost. It’s definitely something for us to work on going forward,” he said. “We hadn’t even trained inside this part of the new building so it wasn’t really any advantage for us. The pitch and the facilities were fantastic.
“It was a typical derby game. I didn’t think it was nasty or malicious but if there were tackles to be made, both sets of players made them. They all passed the ball around well, too.”
Fans of both clubs filed in to fill up the astrodome’s three-tier seating area prior to kick-off, perhaps as much in curiosity as anything. Full-size indoor pitches are the future but this was almost a first in Scotland. It was the highest profile football match not played outside. The only other indoor fixture was a previous SPL Under-19 game staged at the Ravenscraig football complex in Lanarkshire.
The inevitable echo took some getting used to but there was no lack of competitive edge once play started. Hearts named first-team goalkeeper Viktor Noring, defender Krystian Nowak and forwards Johnsen, Robbie Muirhead and Dario Zanatta in a strong starting line-up. Hibs fielded Jordon Forster, Fraser Fyvie and Alex Harris from their senior squad, while Ofir Marciano made his first appearance for the Hibees in goal.
Despite this being August, Scotland’s summer meant the indoor floodlights were switched on shortly after kick-off to combat a lack of light from grey skies outside. The bright spark inside came from Hibs, who moved ahead on 14 minutes. Forster’s loping ball forward found Jamie Gullan in space entering the Hearts penalty area. He had time to pull the pass down and dispatch an impressive right-footed shot across Noring into the corner of the net.
Hearts’ response was a Johnsen shot on the run which Marciano pushed for a corner. Zanatta then arced an attempt over the crossbar, and Muirhead’s 20-yard free-kick was also off target. Noring prevented Hearts falling two goals behind on 36 minutes when he held Oli Shaw’s first-time effort following Harris’ tantalising run and cross.
The equaliser arrived two minutes before half-time and was a bit of a disaster for Marciano. He received Forster’s weighty backpass and tried to play the ball out to his right whilst being closed down by Johnsen. The Norwegian blocked the distribution and ran on to score, with Marciano recovering but unable to stop the ball before it crossed the goal line.
The second half was a much more open affair as both teams pursued a winner. Noring punched clear from Shaw’s strike on the angle before Hearts forced three saves from Marciano at the opposite end. Zanatta found himself in behind the Hibs defence but a tame effort with his right foot gave the goalkeeper a straightforward catch. Hearts midfielder Andy Irving then had two attempts which Marciano dealt with.
Gullan nodded Hibs back into the lead on 58 minutes. Fraser Murray played a short corner with Callum Crane and then delivered a dangerous cross from the left flank. Gullan met the ball on the run and glanced it precisely away from Noring into the far corner. It was another impressive conversion by the young striker.
After replacing Johnsen and Muirhead, Hearts forced an equaliser on 73 minutes. Much of the credit was due to Zanatta for holding off centre-back Ryan Porteous inside the penalty area to prod a cross into the six-yard area. McLean, on for Johnsen, was perfectly placed to tap the ball home.
Hibs finished marginally stronger in a game where there was little between the teams. Shaw stung Noring’s palms from outside the penalty box, and the Swedish goalkeeper held another drive from the same player. Ultimately, few could complain at the 2-2 scoreline.
Hibs (4-4-2): Marciano; Donaldson, Forster, Porteous, Crane; Harris, Martin, Fyvie, Murray; Shaw, Gullan. Unused subs: Waugh, Watson, Smith, Paton.
Hearts (4-3-3): Noring; Godinho (Brandon 26), Nowak, Baur, Reid; Paton, Petkov, Irving; Muirhead (Currie 61), Johnsen (McLean 61), Zanatta. Unused subs: Mason, Jones, Morrison, Vladislav.
Referee: Peter Stuart.