Forgotten man Danny Amankwaa and new signing Craig Wighton were on target as Hearts edged a feisty Edinburgh derby 2-1 in the opening group match of the SPFL Reserve Cup at Oriam.
Both sides ended the match with ten men after Chris Hamilton and Josh Campbell were dismissed for rash tackles.
Wighton, recently recruited from Dundee, scored a second-half winner after Hibs’ Fraser Murray had cancelled out an early opener from Amankwaa, the Danish winger who appears to have fallen down the pecking order after failing to register a first-team appearance this season.
Hearts coach Andy Kirk was happy with the way his side coped while playing over 70 minutes with only ten men. “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb when Chris went diving in at the edge of the box when he didn’t need to,” he said. “That gave the referee a decision to make. Going down to ten men that early, it took us a bit of time to get organised and Hibs got their goal before half-time. I said to the boys at the break we could still win the game because we were still getting opportunities to break. It was just a case of upping the work rate and organisation when we didn’t have the ball. We managed to do that, and for long spells we managed to control the game. Wighton’s goal was fantastic.”
Hibs listed a team predominantly of development players, with 21-year-old striker Lewis Allan, who made his first start for the first team against Livingston a week past Saturday, the most senior inclusion in Grant Murray’s side.
Hearts, by contrast, named a team containing several players with first team-experience. Arnaud Djoum was given another outing as he builds up match fitness and sharpness following a lengthy absence with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, while recent recruits Wighton and Clevid Dikamona both started. Amankwaa, who has had an underwhelming start to his Hearts career since arriving in January, was also given a start, alongside highly-regarded teenage prospects Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald.
Watched by Tynecastle manager Craig Levein less than two weeks after his heart scare, the Jam Tarts had the first attempt at goal after three minutes but Cochrane’s strike from 25 yards out was too high to trouble Hibs goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski.
Having enjoyed the bulk of the early play, the Tynecastle side took the lead in the 16th minute when Amankwaa placed a precise low shot just inside Dabrowski’s left-hand post after being teed up 15 yards out following good play on the left by Wighton and Djoum.
Hearts’ hopes of building on their advantage were dented, however, in the 19th minute when captain Chris Hamilton was shown a straight red card for a rash tackle on Murray just outside the box. This had the effect of reducing Hearts’ attacking threat while simultaneously allowing Hibs to feel their way more prominently into the game.
The Easter Road side carved out an opportunity in the 29th minute when Callum Yeats played a lovely pass through to the on-rushing Innes Murray but Daniel Baur, wearing the captain’s armband following Hamilton’s dismissal, got back to make a vital tackle. Hibs defender Seán Mackie then rasped a shot just wide from 25 yards out.
At the other end, Dabrowski had to act smartly to stop a deflected shot from Wighton finding the net.
Hibs equalised two minutes before the break when Fraser Murray headed in a Kane O’Connor cross.
The Easter Road side had a great chance to go ahead in 62 minutes when Jamie Gullan released Allan through on goal, but the striker shot wide from the edge of the box with just Silva to beat.
Hibs were made to pay for this wasted opportunity when Hearts went straight up the park and restored their lead. Wighton, who led the line impressively, capitalised on some slack Hibs defending, waltzed into the danger area and fired an angled shot high past Dabrowski from six yards out.
Things got worse for the young Hibees two minutes later when Campbell was shown a second yellow card for a bad tackle on Cochrane. The Hearts midfielder limped off moments later to be replaced by Lewis Moore.
Gullan sent an angled shot into side-netting as Hibs chased an equaliser while Hearts subs Connor Smith and Euan Henderson were both denied by Dabrowski in the closing stages of a competitive derby.
Hibs coach Murray felt individual errors cost his side. “We were disappointed with some of the decisions our players made,” he said. “We had a good chance to go 2-1 up and ten seconds later the ball was in our net. That can be the difference in football – you’ve got to be ruthless at both ends. Josh was a bit rash for the sending off and we were a bit slack with the goals we gave away.”
Murray explained that Hibs are comfortable with their policy of predominantly playing under-20s in their reserve team, but won’t be averse to pitching in first-team players when they see fit. “We’ll not always just play development players,” he explained. “If we feel there’s first-team players needing a run-out we’ll play them. Emerson Hyndman and Thomas Agyepong have played for us so there will be first-team players who play, but we have a group who we feel are capable of learning and playing in the reserve league.”
Hibs: Dabrowski, O’Connor, Mackie, Campbell, Stirling, Waugh, F Murray, I Murray, Allan, Gullan, Yeates. Subs: Martin, Woods, Paron, Shanley.
Hearts: Silva, Logan, Hamilton, Dikamona, Baur, Bozanic, Cochrane, Djoum, McDonald, Amankwaa, Wighton. Subs: Mason, Moore, Henderson, Petkov, C Smith, Gajda, Hickey.