HEARTS manager Paulo Sergio acclaimed teenage debutant Fraser Mullen as man-of-the-match and praised the defender’s courage in taking a first-half penalty against Auchinleck Talbot.
Andrew Leishman, the Auchinleck goalkeeper, saved Mullen’s 19th-minute spot-kick as Hearts recorded a narrow 1-0 win against the spirited Ayrshire Junior club in the Scottish Cup fourth round.
Yet the 18-year-old Mullen recovered from that disappointment admirably to deliver a commanding display at right-back. Sergio felt he played like a veteran and finished as the game’s outstanding player.
“For me, he is the man of the match,” said the manager. “I didn’t say to him to take the penalty, I was screaming to Scott Robinson to take it. But I like the guts and courage of a kid who picks the ball up and says ‘I’ll take it’. That courage means a lot to me. Gary Locke told me Mullen takes penalties for the Under-19s. The miss did not influence my opinion of his performance. He played like a 35-year-old man.” Sergio also granted a senior debut to Jordan Morton whilst striker Gordon Smith struck the game’s only goal six minutes from the end. The Portuguese said he will continue to utilise his younger players.