Hearts hero Robbie Buchanan was jubilant after scoring a magnificent winner in last night’s Under-20s derby against Hibs.
A stunning first-half strike from the 19-year-old settled a game of few chances and took the Jambos four points clear of their rivals in the bottom half of the SPFL Development League.
Having just returned from a loan stint at Cowdenbeath, the young Glaswegian is hopeful that the goal can help him force his way back towards the Hearts first team, where he made six appearances last season.
“Three points against the rivals is always good,” he smiled. “It was good to get a goal as well. It wasn’t half a good strike, even the play leading up to it was good. You can’t ask for any better than scoring in a derby, even at this level. It’s always special. I’d only scored one goal before against Hibs for the 17s and we won that one 1-0 as well. I’ve come back from my loan hoping to impress and trying to get into the first-team squad and make benches, so hopefully that helps. They had an older team than us but all our young boys were at it.”
In the past there has been a temptation from both teams to throw in a few more big guns than usual for this fixture, but generally both sides had a youthful look to them. Hibs fielded the more experienced XI, with three first-team players in their ranks. Estonian forward Henri Anier, who has been struggling with injury lately, was the most notable inclusion as he made his first appearance in green-and-white since joining Hibs on loan from Dundee United more than two months ago. Dan Carmichael and Jordon Forster, who have both been restricted to bench duty for the first team in recent weeks, also started.
There were no established first-team players in the Hearts side, although Liam Smith, Sean McKirdy, Robbie Buchanan, Callumn Morrison and Daniel Baur have all been involved to varying extents with Robbie Neilson’s team.
Head coaches Alan Stubbs and Neilson were among a crowd of almost 500 at Ainslie Park, along with first-team players from both teams, like Dylan McGeouch and Jamie Walker.
They witnessed Hearts make a strong start, with the first chance of the match falling to Buchanan in the sixth minute, although the attacker rasped over from 12 yards out. The visitors had another good opportunity soon after, but Morrison was unable to get enough power into his shot to trouble home goalkeeper after being set up by inside the box by a Dale Baxter cutback.
Hibs’ first opening of the match came in the 19th minute when Oli Shaw’s cutback found Anier. The Estonian took a touch before flashing in a powerful angled left-footed striker which was deflected behind the near post.
Hearts took the lead in the 33rd minute courtesy of a stunning strike. Buchanan, 25 yards out, took a touch with his back to goal and swivelled to fire a powerful drive beyond the helpless Sean Brennan.
Hibs tried to respond, with Jordan Sinclair seeing a firm strike from distance well held by Hearts goalkeeper Kelby Mason. Just before the interval the hosts went even closer when Anier had a low shot from inside the box blocked by Mason before Ali Smith crashed the rebound against the crossbar.
Sinclair then had an attempt from 20 yards out early in the second half, but Mason was equal to it. In a pre-planned move, Hibs took Anier off after an hour with the Estonian having looked lively in flashes. Smith left the field at the same time, with Adam Watson and Conner Duthie entering the fray.
There was a notable lack of feistiness to last night’s game compared to recent encounters between the sides at this level. Clear chances were also limited at both ends, with Forster’s 30-yard strike, which flew harmlessly wide one of the few efforts at goal in the second half.
The best chance of an equaliser fell to Carmichael in the 82nd minute but he flashed a half-volley over from just inside the box.
Buchanan had a late opportunity to seal victory for his side but his effort from outside the box drifted harmlessly over the bar.
Joe McBride, Hibs’ Under-20 development coach, felt his side weren’t at the races. “I felt it was a really poor game of football in the first half,” he said. “I’m not including Hearts in that, but the weather made it hard and we were really poor in the first half. It was more like a Sunday-afternoon stroll than a derby for some of my players. The second half was a little bit better but I’m still really disappointed. I expect more from them. I don’t include the first-team players in that because they’re just back from injuries and different things but, of the younger ones, only two or three of them did alright. They’re going to have learn lightly.”
Hibs: Brennan, Donaldson, Dunmore, Forster, Waugh, Stirling, Smith (Watson 60), Carmichael, Anier (Duthie 60), Shaw, Sinclair (Scott 74). Subs not used: Scott, Porteous, Costello.
Hearts: Mason, L Smith, L Henderson, Baur, Jones, McKirdy, Morrison, Buchanan, McLean (E Henderson 84), Baxter (I Smith 76), Moore. Subs not used: Fisher, Flanagan, Irving, Hamilton.