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Hearts thwarted by organised St. Johnstone

Heart of Midlothian FC 0

St. Johnstone FC 1

Thomson 22'
  • Monday, 19 October 2015
  • Ochilview Park
  • Under 20´s
  • SPFL Development League Match

Jack Thomson | YFS Falkirk Senior Reporter
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Hearts had much of the possession on a chilly night at Ochilview but were undone by a compact and organised performance from St. Johnstone. The Perth side absorbed plenty of pressure before breaking and scoring what would be the winner in clinical fashion through Craig Thomson’s 22nd minute effort. 
 
Despite having the lion’s share of possession with Arnaud Djoum and Sea McKirdy impressing in the middle of the pitch, Hearts were stifled by St. Johnstone. The Edinburgh side’s best chance of the early stages fell to Ian Smith in the 8th minute. Dario Zanatta burst to the byline and teed up Ian Smith but the winger’s placed effort was blocked and cleared. 
 
Hearts continued to assert pressure but St. Johnstone held firm and exploited the opportunity to break the deadlock. Greg Hurst displayed excellent physical strength and intelligence to kill the ball and bring his teammates into play before bursting down the left to receive it once more and cut a low cross back towards the edge of the area. The ball found its way to Thomson who curled a looping effort beyond the outstretched arm of Kelby Mason.
 
Hearts almost responded instantly when Gavin Reilly raced on to a long ball in the 26th minute. The striker flicked the ball over his marker’s head but could not direct a left-footed half volley on target. A minute later it was Ian Smith’s turn to try and level the game, meeting a byline cross from Reilly in the air. Smith’s headed effort was denied by the St Johnstone defence and cleared. 
 
Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein were watching on from the stand and will have been encouraged by the combination play on show between the midfield and overlapping fullbacks but Hearts could not get the decisive touch in front of goal. Limiting the Edinburgh side to efforts from set pieces, St. Johnstone were containing the opposition well. 
 
St. Johnstone almost had a second with the last clear cut chance of the half. In the 39th minute Greg Hurst was released on the left by Greg Page. Hurst displayed a great piece of skill to jink and pirouette beyond two defenders but the wide player could not connect cleanly with his strike and Mason gathered to ensure the score remained at 1-0 going into the break. 
  • Half Time:
  • Heart of Midlothian FC
  • 0-1
  • St. Johnstone FC
Hearts kicked off for the second half and it was Reilly with the first opportunity, finding space on the edge of the box before blazing a left-footed effort over the bar. The number nine threatened to level again in the 54th minute. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, the striker turned well but dragged his low effort wide of the left-hand post. 
 
Hearts continued to probe and won a free-kick on the right in the 57th minute. Despite the tight angle, Smith fancied his chances and bent a left-footed effort over the wall and towards goal. The strike had Ben Mackenzie scrambling and cleared the bar by a matter of centimetres. 
 
Drama ensued in the 64th minute when Zanatta broke into the box from the right. Just as the winger seemed to have found an inch or two of space, he went to ground. Referee Evan Cairns blew his whistle and awarded Zanatta a second yellow card for diving. 
 
Down to ten men, Hearts continued to press but St. Johnstone held on. In the 70th minute the ball was laid back for Djoum twenty five yards from goal and the Belgian drilled the ball narrowly wide. 
 
Hearts almost gifted St. Johnstone a second in comical circumstances in the 74th minute. Leon Jones tried to loft the ball back to his goalkeeper but mistimed his pass. The ball looped over Mason before dropping narrowly wide. A sigh of relief was shared by the defender and his goalkeeper. 
 
Confident of carving out an opening, wave after wave of attacks were conducted by Hearts. With 79 minutes on the clock the impressive Robbie Buchanan showed innovation and exquisite close control to beat two St. Johnstone defenders before prodding the ball wide of the left hand post. 
 
Three minutes following, Djoum broke into the opposition box with menace and forced a fine save Mackenzie down to his left. The goalkeeper got a strong hand on the effort to turn the ball behind for a corner. 
 
Sean McKirdy refused to give up on his team’s cause, blocking a late Greg Kerr effort in the penalty area before bravely carrying the ball up the field. 
 
It looked as though the persistence of the Hearts side would pay off in the final minute. A corner whipped in from the left with pace was met by the head of Soufian El Hassnaoui, who flicked his effort onto the post and wide. 
 
St. Johnstone had survived the late pressure to secure the three points after an impressive disciplined performance from the Perth side. 
 
  • Full Time:
  • Heart of Midlothian FC
  • 0-1
  • St. Johnstone FC

Lineups

Heart of Midlothian FC
St. Johnstone FC
1. Kelby Mason
2. Liam Smith (C)
3. Aaron Reid
4. Leon Jones
5. Jahmal Howlett-Mundle
6. Sean McKirdy
7. Ian Smith
8. Arnaud Djoum
9. Gavin Reilly
10. Robbie Buchanan
11. Dario Zanatta
12. Soufian El Hassnaoui
13. Ben Cargill
14. Lewis Moore
15. Dale Baxter
16. Nathan Flanagan
17. Christopher Hamilton
18. Russell McLean
1. Ben Mackenzie
2. Aaron Comrie
3. Greg Page
4. Eoghan McCawl
5. Jason Kerr (C)
6. Neil Martiniuk
7. Connor McLaren
8. Paul Simpson
9. Kyle Lander
10. Greg Hurst
11. Craig Thomson
12. Greg Kerr
14. Paul Esslemont
15. Jordan Millar
16. Cameron Lumsden
17. Jamie McKenzie
Star Player
Heart of Midlothian FC
St. Johnstone FC
Sean McKirdy - The 17 year old impressed in the middle of the pitch alongside Arnaud Djoum, a player nine years his senior. Confident on the ball with intelligent movement it, McKirdy put in an impressive performance.
Greg Hurst - Lit up the match for the away side with moments of brilliance on the ball. A skilful player with plenty of self-belief, Hurst played a huge part in the only goal of the game.
Magic Moment
Heart of Midlothian FC
St. Johnstone FC
Robbie Buchanan dropped deep to receive the ball all evening but one particular moment in the first half captured his talent as the forward player deftly brought the ball under control before accurately feeding a teammate.
Greg Hurt's trickery to beat one defender before pirouetting beyond another was a special moment. The wide player was unfortunate not to complete the move with a goal.
  • Match report and photos copyright Youth Football Scotland.
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