Jamie Hamill closer to Hearts starting slot

Jamie Hamill. Picture Joel Kelly
Jamie Hamill. Picture Joel Kelly
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Hearts’ Jamie Hamill took a step closer to a starting berth for Hearts’ first team last night as he played the first half in Hearts Under-20s 2-2 draw with their Hibs counterparts at Prestonfield, Linlithgow, last night.

The right-back came on as a substitute in the first team’s 2-0 defeat to Aberdeen last Saturday, a major step in his comeback after knee surgery to repair a ruptured cruciate ligament, an injury he sustained in April last year.

While conceding his disappointment in the manner in which his side lost their goals in last night’s derby, Hearts coach Darren Murray is confident 26-year-old Hamill will be involved in Saturday’s SPL clash with Ross County at Tynecastle.

Murray said: “Jamie done OK and there has been no reaction from his knee, so hopefully he will be back training with the first-team tomorrow. We’ll then have a look and see how he is and hopefully, everything going well, he’ll definitely be involved in the squad on Saturday.

“It was disappointing to lose the goals that we did and these are the small details I’ve told the players about, but I thought we dominated the play and had all the inventive football. It was a typical derby on a tight pitch but we’re on a fair wee run at the moment.”

Hearts should have been awarded a spot-kick only minutes in after Hibs defender Jordon Forster appeared to trip Gordon Smith, however, the contact was adjudged to have been made outside the area.

Hibs responded well and Danny Handling’s low-drive from 20 yards had Jack Hamilton scrambling across his goal as the ball went wide of the left-hand post.

A good move through the middle of the park then gave Hibs’ David Paul a clear view of Hamilton’s goal, but Jamie Hamill produced a tremendous last-ditch tackle to deflect the ball over the crossbar.

Hearts should have opened the scoring after half-an-hour, David Smith’s corner landing at the feet of Denis Prychynenko, but the big defender could only blast the ball high over the top from ten yards.

Handling then played a neat pass into David Gold who burst into the Hearts penalty area and from his cut-back, the onrushing Paul should have done better as his shot sailed over the top from 16 yards.

Hearts started the second 45 more brightly and deservedly went ahead eight minutes after the interval when Dale Carrick struck a sweet right-footed effort into the bottom left corner from 12 yards.

Hibs almost responded 
immediately through the lively Handling, but his effort cannoned back off the left post from a narrow angle.

Handling was really beginning to assert his authority as his neat pass inside to Gold carved out Hibs’ best opportunity as the ball broke to Paul who struck a well-placed shot that had to be turned round the post by Hamilton.

However, from the resulting corner-kick, Hibs were back on level terms as Forster rose unmarked to head the ball down into the back of net from Ryan Baptie’s corner.

Hearts then edged in front again when Billy King took advantage of a slip in the Hibs defence and rifled his shot high past Paul Grant to restore Hearts’ advantage.

Hibs almost restored parity when Handling arrived at the back post after receiving Jay Doyle’s flick-on before producing a rasping half-volley which was well saved by Hamilton.

However, the Hearts defence again failed to defend Baptie’s teasing corner and Robert 
Wilson was on hand to direct his header into the top right corner to level the match at 2-2.

Hibs should have been ahead for the first time in the match with just five minutes remaining when Paul’s charge into the Hearts penalty presented Ross Caldwell with an opportunity the striker had been waiting for all night, but the youngster failed to hit the target.

Hibs’ Dean Horribine then almost turned the ball into his own net in the final minute from Adam King’s corner, but Grant brilliantly tipped over to earn his side a point.

Hibs coach James McDonaugh said: “I think we showed great character to come back and we would have been disappointed to have lost the game. Hearts are a strong side so the players have done well.”

Hibs: Grant, Black, Baptie, Gold, Forster, Wilson, Handling, Horribine, Caldwell, Doyle, Paul, Dunsmore, Horne, Martynuik, Crane, Beaton, Todd, Court.

Hearts: Hamilton, Hamill, McGhee, Brad McKay, Prychynenko, A King, B King, D Smith, G Smith, Holt, Carrick, Nicholson, Millar, Beith, Scott, Keegan, Oliver, McMillan.