How did 17-year-old Connor Smith play during Hearts 1-1 draw with Hibs?
With just two wins in ten games against top flight opposition and looking at the prospect of consecutive Edinburgh derby results for the first time since returning to Hearts as manager, Craig Levein threw one helluva a curveball at his capital rivals late on Sunday morning.
The Tynecastle boss decided to give 17-year-old Connor Smith for the first start of his career. Not only that, he would be playing alongside Harry Cochrane, the 18-year-old making just his sixth appearance of the campaign due to a string of injury issues.
Levein took the necessary gamble after poor form from his experienced players in recent weeks. The Hearts boss wasn't satisfied with the central midfield support offered to lone striker Uche Ikpeazu and sought to remedy that with Smith. Despite his inexperience, the youngster's game is all about driving forward and supporting the attack. Levein had enough faith in the player that he would play his usual game and wouldn't be overawed by the occasion. And so it proved.
Though a number of Hearts fans were dreading this derby, the visitors were impressive during the open 25 minutes and Smith was a big reason for that. The youngster displayed a good touch to go along with his forays into the penalty box, and his ability to link seamlessly with team-mates enabled Hearts to give as good as they got during the period.
On five minutes he played a part in a move which led to a chance for Jake Mulraney wandering in from the left wing. Three minutes later a clever pass round the corner set up Michael Smith for a crossing chance. He almost provided an assist for the same player on 24 minutes, getting into the box to run on to an Ikpeazu through ball, where his low cross for his namesake was denied by a last-ditch block.
His most impressive act came shortly before the half when a brilliant flick set up Mulraney to charge through the centre and bring out a save from Ofir Marciano.
Hearts struggled for the first 25 minutes of the second period as Smith and Cochrane both tired in the centre of the park, which is understandable given the lack of game time they've each had this season.
Smith saw his day end of 65 minutes with Ryan Edwards brought on in his place. It's only one appearance but there was a lot on show for Hearts fans to be excited about with regards to the player's future. He displayed strong technique, good awareness and a commendable work ethic. He also wasn't cowed by the Easter Road atmosphere despite being thrown into the deep end. All in all, it points towards a bright future for the player.