Aidan Keena and Ross Callachan scored to secure victory for Craig Levein’s new-look Hearts in the Arbroath sunshine. The Irish forward struck two minutes from the interval in the Edinburgh club’s first pre-season friendly. Callachan converted the second on 85 minutes before substitute Kane Hester’s consolation for Arbroath.
Nine of ten new signings were involved for Hearts, who could have won by won by a greater deficit having struck the crossbar twice. That said, the visitors needed their American trialist goalkeeper Kevin Silva to produce two excellent saves during the first period.
Silva, a 20-year-old American, lined up in goal with Zdenek Zlamal injured. Kyle Lafferty was out for family reasons, while Anthony McDonald and Don Cowie were injured and Harry Cochrane ill. Another trialist, Ali Crawford, took a place in central midfield.
New signings Oliver Bozanic, Steven MacLean, Ben Garuccio and Ryan Edwards were all in from the start and it was Bozanic, the Australian midfielder, who struck the bar inside two minutes. Silva was then called upon to make an excellent save low to his left from the Arbroath wing-back Bobby Linn.
Darren Jamieson, the former Livngston keeper, preserved Arbroath’s clean sheet with saves from MacLean and the ex-Hearts defender Jason Thomson, who almost chested the ball into his own goal.
The Edinburgh club enjoyed most of the early possession, with Bozanic and Crawford influencing the midfield area. Liam Smith, fresh from a season-long loan at St Mirren, looked quick galloping forward from right wing-back on several occasions.
Arbroath grew into the game and tended to cause trouble for a slightly casual Hearts defence whenever they did venture forward. Silva stopped Danny Denholm’s volley with his legs in another impressive intervention which did his contract hopes no harm.
Two minutes from the interval the deadlock was broken by teenage Hearts striker Keena. He fastened on to Crawford’s intelligent clipped pass in behind the home defence, then steadied himself to drive a low finish into the far corner of the net.
Manager Craig Levein changed his entire team for the second half as more recent signings made their first appearance. Olly Lee, Pater Haring, Jake Mulraney, Uche Ikpeazu and Bobby Burns were the men in question.
Levein wanted to give a 45-minute run-out to as many players as possible to ease them back into action. His Arbroath counterpart Dick Campbell also conducted a raft of substitutions but the alterations didn’t change the pattern of play much. Hearts continued with most of the ball but remained occasionally careless and conceded possession – perhaps due to rustiness.
Ikpeazu looked a handful in attack and demonstrated an ability to both hold the ball up and run in behind opponents when required. The former Cambridge United striker used his physical strength to fend off challenges from defenders. There were encouraging signs from Mulraney, who replaced Garuccio at left wing-back. The Irishman’s pace was too much for anyone else on the field.
Centre-back Haring also looked useful, especially at set-pieces. Only a fingertip save by Jamieson denied him a headed goal on 69 minutes. Seconds later, Christophe Berra sprinted forward to crash an attempt off the underside of the Arbroath crossbar.
Hearts did eventually stretch their advantage five minutes from time. Burns cut the ball back from the left and Ross Callachan planted a neat finish low into the corner. That should have completed a decent night’s work for those from Tynecastle.
However, Arbroath substitute Hester’s marauding run down the left ended with a tidy finish past the Hearts reserve keeper Kelby Mason in stoppage time.
Arbroath (3-5-2): Jamieson; Thomson, O’Brien, Hamilton; Linn (Kader 46), McCord (Leishman 46), Whatley, Swankie (Elder 63), Denholm (Gold 46); McKenna (Hester 46), Wallace (Fraser 46).
Unused sub: Hill.
Hearts first half (3-4-1-2): Silva; M Smith, Souttar, Baur; L Smith, Crawford, Bozanic Garuccio; Edwards; MacLean, Keena.
Hearts second half (3-4-1-2): Mason; Petkov, Haring, Berra; Moore, Lee, Burns, Mulraney; Callachan; Ikpeazu, Currie (Zanatta 75).
Referee: Alan Newlands.