Three things we learned from Hearts 2 - 1 Stenhousemuir

Analysis from Tynecastle as Hearts moved top of Group A in the Betfred Cup with a 2-1 victory over Stenhousemuir.

Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 7:43 pm
Craig Halkett celebrates after scoring his second of the game.

Pressure isn't worth much if you don't use it

Hearts had all of the territorial advantage in the first 45 minutes and were still booed off at half-time by their own support. This was because, while the ball saw plenty of action around the Stenhousemuir penalty area, clear-cut chances were few and far between. The visitors kept a very narrow shape which was unintentionally aided by Hearts adopting a similar structure as both Anthony McDonald and Jamie Walker in the wide positions looked to attack the central areas. There was plenty of space for Michael Smith with which to run into, but Stenny were willing to live with the opposition right-back being the most dangerous attacker in the home ranks. In the end, strikers Conor Washington and Steven MacLean didn't get much in the way of service and the half ended goalless.

Never underestimate a team defending for their life

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Craig Halkett celebrates after scoring his second of the game.

Obviously, Hearts were poor. You can't play a team in the fourth tier of Scottish football - at home, no less - and come within minutes of losing the game without lacking a bit in your performance. But this wasn't quite a complete horrorshow from the hosts. They needed more composure in the final third, especially when shooting around the edges as every attempt seemed to fly into the stand, but they still controlled the game from start to finish and constantly bombarded the away box.

It should also be said that Stenhousemuir defended incredibly, especially in the central areas between the edge of the box to the goalkeeper. It will be quite some time before we see another sequence of play as the one which occurred when four Hearts players lined up to have clear shots on goal, only to see each and every one either parried by the goalkeeper or blocked by a defender on the line.

It also should be said that you should never underestimate a Hibs-supporting centre-back playing at Tynecastle. For 82 minutes Andy Munro seemed to head absolutely everything that came his way.

At the very least Craig Halkett has endeared himself

If you're looking for positives, that's now three goals in two games for the centre-back who, given that he didn't have too much to do defensively, was one of the few players in maroon who could be content with his night's work. He's already proven himself to be a threat in the opposing penalty box inside two games. Against Cowdenbeath he displayed a powering run to get a march on his marker and bullet a header in at the front post. On Wednesday evening, though his first goal was a little fortuitous as the ball dropped to his feet, he still showed the kind of composure lacking from his team-mates. He then followed it up with a terrific header, planting it into the top corner to break Stenhousemuir's resolve.