Steven Naismith outlines the Hearts progress after Celtic test in Airdrie

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Steven Naismith is convinced Hearts teenagers are learning and developing after watching them create several decent scoring chances against Celtic B in Airdrie.

The defeat was down to Celtic capitalising on their opportunities whilst Hearts squandered some of theirs, according to the Riccarton coach. A goal right at the start and right at the end was sufficient for the Parkhead side as they challenge for the Lowland League title.

Hearts looked slightly unsettled during the first half but recovered to assert themselves much better after the interval. With more experienced youngsters like Aidan Denholm loaned out and others sidelined by injury, Naismith’s squad is populated by under-18 players making the step up.

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“In some way you want to mention that because they are young, but in other ways you don’t want to use that as an excuse,” he told the Evening News. “The bigger picture is what we take from the game. For the younger ones, this level is slightly different. It’s more demanding. It’s another layer up from under-18s.

“There is more to it at this level. There is more going on and you need to be involved in the game all the time, not just when the ball is at your feet. It’s demanding for these young kids who are just out of school this season. We will say to them that they need to thrive on the experience, enjoy being here and not fear it. They will make mistakes, but you need to enjoy being involved in this and say to yourself: ‘I want a bit more of that.’”

It took only one minute for Celtic B to exert their authority on proceedings when Bruno Davidson opened the scoring. Captain Matthew Anderson delivered a teasing cross from the left which the winger stroked home at the back post.

Hearts should have levelled seconds after half-time when Mackenzie Ross fired the ball across goal from the right, but substitute Ryan Duncan couldn’t convert from close range. The Celtic goalkeeper Josh Clarke then saved with his legs to deny Ross a certain equaliser.

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At the opposite end, Hearts keeper Harry Stone saved Joey Dawson’s effort at point-blank range after a defensive mix-up from the visitors. Stone made several more straightforward stops behind a defence which included first-team centre-back Lewis Neilson. Moments before full-time, Corey Thomson knocked home fellow sub Adam Brooks’ driven cross to cement victory for the Glasgow side.

Hearts coach Steven Naismith is in charge of the club's B team.Hearts coach Steven Naismith is in charge of the club's B team.
Hearts coach Steven Naismith is in charge of the club's B team.

Hearts have run Celtic B and Rangers B close at times this season but remain 13th in the 19-club Lowland League table. Naismith believes facing younger development players suits them rather than the more established fifth-tier teams.

“The games against the other B teams are more tactical with more of a structure to them, so it’s a different test,” he explained. “Some of our younger players struggled to deal with the first half – two different formations trying to gain possession. Celtic scored after we gave the ball up cheaply.

“For our boys’ mindset to turn and then start playing, they got more confident and created just as good chances as Celtic did. We didn’t take them, though, and that’s the fine balance. The boys are disappointed because they feel they did a lot of good things in the game. Three or four small things mean it turns out differently.”