National Competitions (482)
“I believe in these boys and so do the rest of the first team. They train with the first team every day, so it’s not as though they have been parachuted in from nowhere.
“The boys have been training with us from last summer, and the senior players know and trust them.
“They have surprised me a bit in the sense that they are playing at this age. I didn’t expect them to befirst-team players. It was a good night for them and the rest of the team.”
Sometimes it can be seen as a huge risk to play such young and inexperienced players in the Premiership, but Levein had no such concerns when asked about the potential risk involved.
When asked if he was taking a risk, he replied, “Not if you watch him in the training every day it wasn’t.
“With Jamie Walker being out we don’t have anyone else like Anthony. He and Harry are stand outs at their age groups.”
It remains to be seen just how far these boys will go in the game, but if early indications are anything to go by, it certainly seems as though there is plenty to be optimistic about at Tynecastle Park.
Morton beat fierce rivals St Mirren to secure their passage to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday in a hotly-contested game.
Morton manager Darren Barr made one change from the team that beat Turriff United 3-0 in the previous round, with Ben Eardley replacing Cameron Hayes in the starting lineup. Mitchell Duffy moved to left-back, with Eardley starting on the left wing.
The hosts lined up in a 4-4-2 with Jack Purdue and Ben Armour leading the line. St Mirren, meanwhile, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 – Sam Jamieson was the lone forward while in central midfield, Conor McBrearty and Cameron MacPherson took turns holding in front of the defence and pushing up the park with one always remaining back.
Morton took the lead after just five minutes when Eardley converted a rebound from Ruaridh Langan’s penalty. With an early lead secured the home side sat back a little, allowing the St Mirren forwards to press the Morton defence relentlessly, giving them no time on the ball.
The Saints front line was very fluid, with their front five players often swapping roles in an effort to disrupt the Morton defence. The Ton stuck to their rigid system, keeping the pitch narrow and leaving little space through the middle for the visitors to exploit.
St Mirren pushed their full-backs up to overlap the midfield in an attempt to find space and were fairly successful. Because they were trailing St Mirren were forced to play a high back line, resulting in the Morton defence playing long balls forward for Armour and Purdue to chase in an attempt to stretch the Saints defence.
For the home side, right-winger David Anderson largely remained in midfield, leaving the task of supporting the strikers to Eardley on the left.
Morton were happy to allow their rivals to push up the park so they could hit them on the counter and this approach paid off after around half an hour of play. Armour was found with a defence-splitting through ball and calmly slotted the ball home to double Morton’s advantage.
McBrearty and MacPherson took turns sitting in front of the St Mirren defence, allowing the rest of the midfield to push forward and support Jamieson up front.
Both sides struggled to retain possession with the tackles flying in all over the pitch. For the last 10 minutes of the half the Paisley side move to 4-1-2-2-1, raising the tempo and intensity in a bid to pull one back before the break but to no avail.
The Saints came flying out of the traps in the second half, desperate to get the goal that would bring them back into the game. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 in an effort to unlock the Morton defence and created a few decent chances, but were unable to find the net.
By this point the visitors had lost their discipline and flew into a number of increasingly rash tackles. Morton were more than happy to cede possession and play on the counter, and soon grabbed a third in this manner to kill the game.
A minute after the goal, life got even harder for St Mirren after Robbie Leitch was sent off, reducing them to ten men. Unfortunately for the Buddies, it wouldn’t be their last dismissal of the afternoon.
St Mirren played with a 4-3-2, giving themselves options in attack at the expense of having numbers in midfield. To their credit, they managed to pull one back with around ten minutes to go but it wasn’t enough to pull them back into the game.
There was still time for Cameron MacPherson and Evan Horne to get sent off, giving the away side no chance of getting back into the contest as they finished the match with just eight men on the pitch.
The Youth Cup clash between Rangers and Partick Thistle was a unique and interesting tie as it was the first time the Light Blues faced off against a Scottish Development team this season.
Rangers made the decision to pull out of the Development League in favour of glamour ties against some of England’s and Europe’s top academy teams. The only time Rangers have played a Scottish side this season was in a 2-1 defeat to Dumbarton in the IRN-BRU Challenge Cup.
Thistle sit seventh in the SPFL Development League and have had an average run of form in the league thus far. Five wins, five loses and one draw would suggest that Thistle’s place right in the middle of the table is spot on.
There was an element of the unknown for both teams in this game and it showed in the cagey opening encounters. The match had the sense of both teams trying to feel each other out. Thistle however nearly got off to the perfect start when Neil McLaughlin scored from a perfectly weighted Mark Lamont through ball. However, the assistant’s flag came to Rangers’ rescue. McLaughlin was playing right on the shoulder of the Rangers defence, hoping to use his speed against the imposing figures of Aiden Wilson and Lewis Mayo.
Jamie Barjonas would have been the most notable name that the Rangers fans inside Ibrox would be hoping to see. However, it at times looked like Andrew McCarthy and Callum Wilson were told to double mark Barjonas and it certainly worked and helped to lessen his influence on the game.
Cammy Palmer more than stepped up to the mark for the home side, and in truth ran the show from the midfield. Palmer seemed to be everywhere on the park and was a very difficult obstacle for the Thistle attack to break down. Numerous times Palmer would break up play and his own slick passing would start a Rangers attack.
The two teams had no lack of speed and it was a very fast paced match. Connor Higgins, Lee Duncanson, and McLaughlin were clearly the main threat for Thistle and indeed their pace in turning defence into attack did give the Rangers defence one or two things to think about.
For the home side, wingers Andrew Dallas and Serge Atakayi are certainly no slouches in the pace department. Dallas had a fantastic game throughout but Atakayi was kept quiet for the most part by Jason Krones. Atakayi’s persistence would reap the rewards for Rangers later in the match.
It was Zak Rudden who opened the scoring just after the break. Rudden was a constant menace throughout the match. His pace and height made him a versatile weapon and was a player that the Thistle defence couldn’t take their eye off of for a second. Dallas then scored Rangers’ second and it looked like that would be that as a deflated Thistle faced an uphill battle.
Goals change games however. McLaughlin scored from the penalty spot and Thistle were back in the match. Moments later, McLaughlin found himself on the ball after it was knocked on from a corner and the striker made no mistake. Kieran Wright had precious little to do in goal but the two shots he did face both ended up in the back of the net.
Thistle were clearly buoyed from their dramatic comeback but when the game had settled down again it was Rangers who looked more likely to score the decisive goal. It took some fine goalkeeping from Jamie Stevenson and some poor finishing from Rangers to ensure the game went to extra time.
Extra time is often described as a battle of fitness and it certainly looked that way as an energetic Rangers continued to attack, while Thistle seemed to somewhat run out of steam. The ball fell at the feet of Atakayi who scored to put Rangers back in front, right on the stroke of half time.
Chances were few and far between for Thistle, but McLaughlin passed up on a golden opportunity to grab his hat-trick as he volleyed over from edge of the six-yard box. Substitute, Dapo Mebude would play in Rudden for his second goal of the game to double the lead. Mebude would then get a goal of his own after McCarthy was sent off for Thistle for a second bookable offence.
If truth be told, Rangers’ superiority shone through in the end. Graeme Murty and Billy Kirkwood will be hoping that their sides’ European adventures will give them the emphasis to go on and do one better than the runner up spot that Rangers claimed in last season’s Youth Cup.
Ukraine overcame a Scotland side severely lacking creative nous at McDiarmid Park on Tuesday evening to leapfrog them in the race to qualify for the next European Championships.
Scotland began the game in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation that had so far served them well during the European Championships qualifying campaign. Oliver McBurnie was the focal point of attack, replacing regular frontman Oliver Burke after the latter pulled out of the squad with an injury.
The lineup was virtually unchanged from Friday night’s home draw with Latvia, with Scot Gemmill only replacing John Souttar with Ross McCrorie after the Hearts defender sustained a concussion during the Latvia game.
Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna captained the side and was paired alongside McCrorie in central defence – the Rangers defender rewarded for his fine recent form at Ibrox.
Ukraine manager Olexandr Holovko set his side up in a 4-1-4-1 formation initially, with Oleksandr Pikhalonok sitting in between the midfield and the defence. While Ukraine were on the ball, centre-backs Pavlo Lukyanchuk and Ivan Zotko remined in defence marking McBurnie, allowing both full-backs to push forward into midfield to support attacks.
The Ukrainians played with a high line and pressed Scotland relentlessly; in contrast, Scotland’s build-up play was ponderous and slow. Holovko had clearly done his homework and recognised Scotland’s strength down the left of the pitch – the away side did well to nullify Scotland’s attempts to find Lewis Morgan out wide.
The opening half-hour was a cagey affair with Ukraine in particular crowding the midfield, leaving space on the wings that Scotland failed to exploit. Morgan was ineffective out wide and the one time he moved further infield, the St Mirren midfielder managed to fire off a decent shot from distance.
The visitors began to grow into the game and exert more control over proceedings, enjoying more of the ball than Scot Gemmill’s men. The Scottish defence was extremely compact but both Morgan and Chris Cadden were guilty of not tracking back, allowing the two Ukrainian full-backs to repeatedly drive beyond the Scotland defence on the overlap.
Holovko then switched to a 4-3-3, where the attacking players in particular swapped positions and roamed in an effort to unsettle the Scotland back line. Viktor Kovalenko and Olexandr Zinchenko were especially impressive, swapping seamlessly between central midfield and striker roles every few minutes.
Then, with the last kick of the first half, Ukraine got the goal that swung the match in their favour. A tactical rethink was required of Gemmill and when the teams ran on to the park for the second period, the Scotland boss had rejigged his team into a 4-1-4-1, with Allan Campbell protecting the back four.
McBurnie cut an increasingly isolated figure at the head of the home side’s attack, with little support from midfield. Ukraine took to the pitch in the same system as before – this time, however, they were knocking the ball about with more confidence and were dominating possession. They continued to press high up the park and gave the Scotland defenders very little time to play out from the back.
Ukraine pressed for a second goal and around the hour mark Gemmill made his first substitution, replacing Dom Thomas with Dunfermline’s Ryan Williamson. Holovko stuck to his guns and reaped the rewards – with his full-backs pushed up, the Ukrainians outnumbered the Scots in midfield and Gemmill’s team failed to get a foothold in the match.
Andriy Boryachuk squandered a couple of decent chances to add to his tally before Gemmill sensed that something had to change. Liam Smith was replaced by Ryan Hardie with 20 minutes left to play as Scotland moved to a 4-4-2 formation. Five minutes later, Gemmill used his final substitution to bring on Scott Wright for McBurnie.
Wright made an instant impact for Scotland, pressing the Ukrainian defence and making life uncomfortable for them. Another tactical tweak followed for Scotland – the players now lined up in a 4-4-1-1, with Wright playing off centre-forward Hardie.
In the last ten, Scotland began to throw players forward and were almost rewarded with an equaliser, but captain McKenna saw his header following a set-piece cleared off the line. The momentum had swung in Scotland’s favour but despite their change in intensity, an equaliser was not to be.
Ukraine switched to a 4-4-2 to see the game out and made two substitutions in stoppage time to break up the game. A deflection deep in stoppage time saw the ball fall to Kovalenko for a one-on-one and the Shakhtar prospect coolly slotted the ball past Ryan Fulton to seal the win for the Eastern Europeans.