Hearts youngsters take on extra workload in push for Tynecastle first team

Hearts B team manager Steven Naismith revealed that some of the club’s under-18 players are taking on extra workloads to develop quicker in pursuit of a first-team chance.

A number of teenagers featured for the Riccarton second string this week with some of their elders called away to Spain with Robbie Neilson’s senior squad. Ryan Duncan, Adam Forrester and Gregor Crookston are three of those who were involved in Wednesday night’s B team match against Spartans in the Lowland League.

The 0-0 scoreline indicated some progress for Naismith, who explained to the Evening News some of the responsibility being taken on by those pushing through from the under-18s.

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“The group is really good. We have a number of older ones who are very professional and lead by example,” he said. “Then the young ones who are still eligible to play under-18s are in soaking up all of that. They are doing extra work building strength, working on their core, injury prevention, whatever it may be. They are all buying into it and starting to do more off their own backs because they are coming in early to do it. If they want to play in the first team for Hearts, that’s what they need to do.

“We didn’t look overawed physically against Spartans and that’s progress. We would have lost that game at the start of the season because we lost the exact same game first time round against Spartans. We lost a goal from a set-play in the last minute that the boys didn’t deal with. We can still get better at it but this time it looked like a fight.

“The pleasing aspect for me was, when that ball did go long, we won a lot of second balls and found our players to then build an attack. We didn’t play as well as we have done recently in the attacking half, we didn't create many chances, but it was a good night for us in terms of dealing with long balls and winning possession for our team. That’s a positive.”

The Spartans manager Dougie Samuel was left cursing a glaring first-half opportunity which striker Sean Brown sent wide of the post. “Based on penalty-box pressure, I think we deserved to win,” said Samuel. “I think we had enough opportunities and near misses to have won the game. If Sean Brown’s chance goes in during the first half, it changes the game altogether. I’m a wee bit disappointed but not in the players’ application and effort. I asked them to play slightly differently – a bit more direct and go back to front in a 4-4-2. It nearly paid off.

“We are just a wee bit short of confidence in front of goal and maybe aren’t getting a break but if we keep creating opportunities we will be fine. I thought our set-piece delivery was very good. One chance was cleared off the line from Rhys Armstrong and Hearts defended their box really well. They competed well and you need to give them credit for that and the clean sheet. Looking at it through our lens and from our eyes, I thought we did enough to edge it.”

Hearts B team manager Steven Naismith is pleased with his group's progress.