Hearts coach Andy Kirk scathing after Reserve Cup draw against dominant Hibs - Zdenek Zlamal makes error as first-team players given run out
Hearts reserve boss Andy Kirk was scathing of his side despite their penalty win the SPFL Reserve Cup group stage fixture against Hibs after a 1-1 draw.
Lewis Moore gave the home side the lead at Meggetland in front of a reasonable crowd which included Hearts boss Craig Levein, his Hibs counterpart Paul Heckingbottom as well as first-team players Steven Whittaker and Aaron Hickey.
Hibs passed up a host of chances before Zdenek Zlamal made a mistake to hand the visitors a deserved draw late on. The former Tynecastle No.1 redeemed himself in the penalty shootout, stopping Tommy Block’s effort to hand his team a 6-5 win and bonus point.
Yet, it wasn’t enough for Kirk who watched as his side were second best throughout against Lee Makel’s Hibs Development Squad.
“I don’t think I can repeat what I said to the players,” he said. “Really disappointed. It’s probably, since I’ve been here, the worst performance from start to finish I’ve seen from them. They didn’t get the shape right, they didn’t move the ball, they didn’t pick second balls up. Just so many things that we didn’t do well.
“The players are aware that what that was today is not going to be good enough for them to progress to the first team.”
Hearts went close in the first minute when Craig Wighton, getting an hour under his belt on his return from injury, steered a shot past the post before taking the lead moments later.
Connor Smith and Cammy Logan linked up well down the right-hand side before the latter’s cross deflected off the head of Kos Sadiki into the path of Moore who sent a volley past Patrick Martin.
That was as good as it got for the home side.
Hibs, in the same 4-1-4-1 system that has been used by Paul Heckingbottom, slowly began to take control of proceedings. The management trio of Makel, Colin Nish and Eddie May were constantly urging Josh Campbell and Innes Murray to make runs in behind or move forward into space.
Jamie Gullan went close twice in the matter of minutes as Hibs sought an equaliser First a shot was beaten away by Zlamal before he fired over after nice work from Fraser Murray.
Before the half was out, Zlamal’s goal was troubled on five more occasions with Oli Shaw and the excellent Josh Doig testing the Czech keeper.
With Jason Naismith and Adam Jackson at the back, alongside Kos Sadiki, and Ben Stirling at the base of the midfield there was a real solidity and physicality to Makel’s side which was missing from their opponents, who had Aidan Keena leading the attacking and Andy Irving in the centre of the pitch.
In addition, Hibs were much more assured, able to more confidently pass it around on a pitch which some cows would think twice about grazing on.
After the interval it was a game of frustration for both sides. Kirk watched on as his Hearts struggled to impose themselves, Nish grew agitated at Zlamal’s timewasting, while everyone watching on couldn’t understand how Hibs hadn’t scored.
The Easter Road men grew desperate, nearing double digits in efforts in the second half alone. Adam Jackson, Fraser Murray, Jamie Gullan and Oli Shaw all failed to take great chances when they came their way.
Just when it seemed that Hearts, who had went closest with an Andy Irving free-kick, were going to hold on to an undeserved win they conceded late on. A cross from Gullan after tenacious play from Doig saw Zlamal dive out and punch the ball up in the air and behind him rather than out of the box. It left Shaw with the simplest of headers over the line, from a matter of millimetres.
The standard of penalties for the bonus point was high with three misses from 14 spot-kicks. Block, on as a substitute, saw his saved by Zlamal to hand Hearts the success.
Makel was left to rue wasted chances but was upbeat with how his side played on an awful surface, more familiar with rugby.
Makel said: “Everyone in the stand could see we should have won the game by a mile. Some of our play was exceptional considering the state of the pitch which I think was absolutely terrible to say the least.
“We were brave in and out of possession. We should have won the game quite comfortably.”