A drenched Ochilview, home of Stenhousemuir FC, welcomed the two sides in this Development League clash between 14th placed Hearts and 10th placed St Mirren. The conditions would make the game a difficult one for both teams, however the level of entertainment was certainly enhanced by the skiddy surface and swirling wind.
St Mirren brought a tad more experience to this fixture, whilst Hearts fielded a fairly young side, plus a Trialist. Chances were aplenty throughout the first half and St Mirren’s Nathan Flanagan was the bright spark from the 1st to the 90th minute. On 8 minutes though we saw the first real chance of the game when O’Keefe’s deflected the cross from the right wing found Lewis McClear at the near post, but his half volley dipped over the crossbar.
Flanagan continued to cause problems from open play early on, but on 12mins it was a Flanagan set piece that found McClear at the back post. He headed back across the goal and found the back of the net only to be adjudged offside. The score remained 0-0.
It wasn’t until the 16th minute when the young Hearts side carved out their first chance. Harry Paton pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box, but his half volley was well saved by Willison between the sticks.
Soon after, Hearts had a penalty appeal turned away as Russell McClean hit the deck on the penalty spot. Chances were coming think and fast at either end now as both sides grappled with getting on top of the conditions. The 22nd minute saw another Hearts penalty appeal turned away. A firm shoulder to shoulder battle between McKendry and McLean again resulted with the young striker on the sodden plastic turf. Again, nothing from the referee.
A healthy congregation in the Norway Stand, made up of mainly Hearts supporters, continued to witness chance after chance at either end, a goal seemed destined to come. On the 32nd minute St Mirren’s Stewart found a channel of space down the left flank and delivered a well placed cross to Flanagan at the near post. He couldn’t quite steer his left footed flick inside the near post and found the upright. Orsi was the quickest to react, but his shot sailed past the wrong side of the post. It remained 0-0.
On 38 minutes we saw the first booking of the game when St Mirren’s McDonald appeared to trip Rory Currie who was on a clear pathway to goal. A straight red might have seemed harsh, but it was certainly borderline. Morrison’s resulting right footed bending free-kick sailed just past the upright.
Given the abundance of chances thus far, its was surprising that the opening goal didn't come until the 40th minute. It was arguably against the run of play when the Hearts trialist, who 5 minutes earlier had switched from left midfield to right, found himself clear through on goal after a well timed through ball from Rory Currie. Trialist was clear of a napping Saints back line and calmly slotted the ball past Willison with a powerful finish at the near post. The Wee Jambos were 1-0 up at halftime.