Hearts B suffer first defeat of Lowland League season as stubborn Spartans get off the mark

Spartans got off the mark in the Lowland League and handed Hearts B their first defeat of the season after a cagey affair at Ainslie Park ended 1-0 to the hosts.

Clear cut chances were few and far between as the match was ultimately settled by a header on 27 minutes. There’s a bit of debate as to who got the scoring touch, with Spartans keen to credit Sean Brown, but it certainly appeared that it was inadvertently nodded home by Hearts defender Bailey Dall.

It’s an important win for Dougie Samuel’s men after the opening day defeat at Open Goal Broomhill. Things don’t get any easier from here with Celtic B and Rangers B up next.

If Hearts were scintillating against Berwick Rangers in the 6-0 win at the weekend, they were anything but in the first 45 minutes against their Capital neighbours.

Slopping passing was the main characteristic of the performance, as Spartans’ pressing caused them problems in terms of playing it out from the back and funnelling attacks through the midfield.

Slack play in defence almost cost Hearts in the opening two minutes as Harry Gordon had his pocket picked following an overhit pass from goalkeeper Harry Stone, but Gregor Woods hesitated over his decision and the visitors were able to clear.

The young Jambos briefly resembled their swaggering showing from Saturday with a nicely worked move involving Jayden Ferguson and Murray Thomas with the latter squaring for the onrushing Bobby McLuckie. His flicked finish was saved by the first of many strong saves from Blair Carswell.

Steven Naismith’s side could at least be satisfied with their defensive showing as Luke Rathie, in particular, impressed on the right side of the back three. However, when the 17-year-old was harshly punished with a foul on Mikey Allan, Woods swung in a dangerous cross that was diverted past Stone.

Goalkeeper Blair Carswell was the hero for Spartans with a wonder save to deny Connor Smith. Picture: Mark Brown

Though Hearts would get a firmer grip on proceedings as the second period progressed, Spartans remained comfortable with their 1-0 advantage in the opening exchanges.

It wasn’t until the 61st minute and a slicing shot from McLuckie for the away side to have their next shot on target, as Carswell was required to tip over.

They did start to show a bit of quality with Macauley Tait picking out Thomas with an excellent diagonal. His cutback found Aiden Denholm, who shot wide under duress from the excellent Spartans backline. Jordan Tapping, brother of former Hearts midfielder Callum, was a particular standout.

Spartans could have killed the game with just under 20 minutes remaining as Allan crossed for Brown in the centre. The ball was at an awkward height for the striker, who could only get minimal contact before it drifted wide.

Connor Smith impressed against Berwick Rangers for Hearts B. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group.

Before Spartans had the game in the bag they first had to survive a couple of scares in stoppage time. Calum Burns had been brought on to help shore things up in the dying embers, but he almost managed to be the villain of the hour, getting his body shape completely wrong as he attempted to clear a cross into the box. It took an outstanding reflex, finger-tip stop from Carswell at full stretch to save his team-mate’s blushes.

The keeper then solidified his man-of-the-match candidacy with a fine stop at his near post to deny Connor Smith.

Hearts B lost their first game of the Lowland League season to Spartans at Ainslie Park. Picture: SNS
Jordan Tapping is joining Spartans from Stenhousemuir. Picture: Mark Brown