JOHN McGLYNN won’t read too much into last night’s 1-0 defeat by Falkirk. Nor should he. Hearts suffered for some wastefulness in front of goal and ultimately lost their second pre-season outing to Luke Leahy’s strike early in the second half. But McGlynn is experienced enough to know scorelines matter little in summer friendlies Hearts controlled large periods of the match and fashioned even more openings than on Saturday, when they defeated Raith Rovers 3-0 at Stark’s Park. The difference last night was they couldn’t convert. David Templeton, John Sutton, Marius Zaliukas and Jamie Walker all had efforts repelled by the impressive Michael McGovern in Falkirk’s goal. At the opposite end, Leahy dispatched one of Falkirk’s few opportunities beyond Mark Ridgers.
“I think we paid the ultimate sacrifice for not taking chances. We had plenty of them,” admitted McGlynn. “Even in the first 90 seconds Templeton had a great chance after we did very well to get the ball to the byline. He put it over the bar from a few yards out, then he had another chance at the opposite post and the goalkeeper made a good block.
“Dylan McGowan put a ball in for John Sutton, his shot looked like it would go over the line but the Falkirk defender managed to get back and clear. We had chances from set-pieces. And Templeton had a great opportunity at the start of the second half when John Sutton headed a ball down. That one went wide.
“So there you have four or five really good opportunities to get ourselves in front. Had we done that, I would have fancied us to go further in front. Falkirk didn’t have too many chances but they got the one that mattered.
“If there’s a game to lose, it’s a pre-season friendly. Not that we’re too happy to lose any game, however you learn more from defeat than you do in victory. Will I learn more with regards to how we bounce back on Saturday? Yeah, probably. I’m still trying to learn about the players. I’m looking at going to Dunfermline at the weekend to see the character of the team, see if they can go and bounce back.
“You can win all your pre-season games but does it really matter? Yes it builds confidence and belief, but does it matter when you go into the nitty-gritty? Maybe last night was a wee kick up the backside to show that things aren’t going to be a walk in the park. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It’s a wee test of character. We’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
This match passed a pitch inspection despite the monsoon-like conditions. When it did begin, Hearts made light of the unsavoury weather. Sutton’s prodded effort was cleared off the Falkirk goal line on five minutes by Chris Smith. McGovern then collected Mehdi Taouil’s shot from 20 yards before Marius Zaliukas headed wide from a corner.
The visitors, in their new white away kit, were utterly dominant in possession and constantly probed their opponents. Templeton had missed that fine early chance from Ryan McGowan’s low cross and was a continual danger to Falkirk. He was fouled three times whilst passing an opponent but, on 32 minutes, produced a fine dribbling run past three defenders. His shot was eventually blocked by McGovern.
The closest the hosts came during the first half was Andy Haworth’s swerving free-kick, which Ridgers pushed behind for a corner at the last minute. Prior to the interval, McGovern had to deal with two efforts from the enterprising Walker.
Falkirk’s aggression showed no sign of relenting after the break as manager Steven Pressley implored his players to raise their game. They jostled and hustled Hearts and also produced some decent passing moves. An interchange between trialists Leahy and Lyle Taylor – both of whom are waiting on their registrations – saw the deadlock broken. Leahy prodded the ball to Taylor, who was forced wide to his right by Zaliukas but managed to return a low cross towards the six-yard area for Leahy to convert.
Templeton shot narrowly wide two minutes later and McGlynn then introduced a raft of substitutes. One of them, the industrious Scott Robinson, sent a vicious 25-yard drive goalwards in the 74th minute which McGovern tipped over his crossbar. However, an overhead kick by Leahy would have doubled the score had Ridgers not pushed the ball for a corner.
Zaliukas hirpled off to be replaced by Denis Prychynenko on 77 minutes, the Lithuanian suffering a touch of cramp. His compatriot, Arvydas Novikovas, dispatched a powerful effort which McGovern palmed to safety. The goalkeeper also denied Callum Paterson before the end of a game in which Hearts were left to rue their inability to score. On the plus side, this was only their second pre-season outing and there is still two-and-a-half weeks to fine tune before the SPL season commences. “I’m the type of person who likes to try and give everybody the chance to stake a claim for the start of the season,” explained McGlynn. “We only have the four friendlies, which makes it tight to give everyone a chance. Only David Smith and Jason Holt haven’t started a game yet. I’ve got a fair idea of what I’m looking for. We still have Dunfermline and Rotherham to play and then see where we are – who is fit and who is ahead of others.
“We’ve given both Callum (Paterson) and Kevin (McHattie) opportunities to gain experience. Dylan McGowan went in last night, Mehdi Taouil was back in, Jamie Walker was on the right and David Templeton on the left. We changed our wingers about to keep the competition for places there and give players an opportunity.”
Falkirk (4-4-2): McGovern; Duffie, Flynn, Smith (Dods 61), Kingsley; J Fulton, Faulds (McGrandles 46), Murdoch, Haworth; Leahy, Taylor (Sibbald 77). Subs: Dick, Dods, Whyte, Bowman, D Fulton, Turnbull.
Hearts (4-3-3): Ridgers; Paterson, Webster, Zaliukas (Prychynenko 77), McHattie; R McGowan, D McGowan (Holt 68), Taouil (Robinson 61); Walker (Novikovas 61), Sutton (D Smith 77), Templeton (Driver 61). Sub: MacDonald.
Referee: Alan Muir.