Tuesday 12 July 2016, 19.00, Christie Gillies Park

Civil Service Strollers were founded in 1908 and the senior team are about to have their first season in the Lowland League. Originally called Edinburgh Civil Service Football Club, they began at the Stenhouse Stadium before moving to Pinkhill Stadium in the 1920s. They moved to the Edinburgh Area Civil Service Sports Association in the Muirhouse area of Edinburgh in 1957, where they still play today.  In 2015, the Scottish Football Partnership made a Facilities Award to the Strollers to assist with the cost of installing a covered spectator enclosure at the ground.  After featuring for many years in the East of Scotland League, it will be interesting to see how they fair in the Lowland League.

Strollers have signed Sean Turnbull and Steven Anderson from Peebles Rovers, Darren Bowie from Eyemouth United and Greig Tulloch from Craigroyston in preparation for the new season.

The Hearts Under 20 side had a big clear out at the end of the season and several new faces have come in.  I used to watch them semi-regularly when they played their home games at Newtongrange Star’s ground, but they moved to Stenhousemuir last season.

Recent signing Nicolay Todorov’s younger brother Bogoslav plays as a trialist for Hearts, as is Seb Buddle, who is on the bench.  New signing Paton has come in from Fulham and is a former Canadian youth internationalist.

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I was living the dream at this game.  Who wouldn’t want to spend the night of their birthday at Christie Gillies Park?

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A pretty feisty game developed with both teams certainly not holding back.  There was little in the way of chances until the young Hearts side took the lead in 32 minutes.  Paton’s cross from the left to the back post was headed back across goal by Jones and Petkov headed downwards into the net.

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In the next minute, they almost made it two.  McLean latching onto a through ball and chipping it up before volleying just wide of goal.

A great ball in 43 minutes by Petkov to Todorov on the left set the Hearts winger away and his cross was headed home by McLean.  Not much pressure on the cross or the header, but well executed.

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McLean went down injured in the Strollers box a minute later after trying to get on the end of another Todorov cross.  Milligan had started well at right back for Strollers, but he was starting to give Todorov too much space on Hearts left.

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With 55 minutes gone, Paton latched on to a through ball and sent a thumping shot which came of the post.  The Strollers defence got the ball clear, but it immediately came back and when the ball was slid through to Petkov, he turned quickly and placed the ball into the corner to make it three nil.

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A long ball forward by the home side in 60 minutes found Law bearing down on the Hearts goal.  He got to the ball first but it went spinning wide as he was caught by the outrushing Mason.  Law needed treatment before the free kick, which came to nothing, was taken.

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Some amusement when Strollers Law shouted to Downie that he was “in plenty of space”, suggesting that he wasn’t marking anybody, before Downie pointed out that the man he was marking was in the process of going off after being substituted and his replacement hadn’t come on yet.

The game was punctuated by lots of substitutions which stemmed the flow of the game, although Hearts looked very comfortable.  It’s understandable that there will be lots of subs during friendlies, but I’ll never understand why they aren’t done in batches, rather than disrupting the game every couple of minutes.  All teams seem to do it though.

In the last minute, a ball from Hearts right was turned in by McLean to claim his second and his side’s fourth.

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It was a convincing win for Hearts in the end after the initial exchanges and the young Hearts side looked very fit.

Milligan started promisingly for Strollers, but started getting dragged into the middle and giving Todorov too much space.  Finnie was impressive, as he has been whenever I have seen him.  He isn’t overly mobile, but has a very good touch.  Downie tries to play football the right way and is always trying to get on the ball and create for his team.

For Hearts, Todorov looked promising with his direct running and Vladislav looked impressive at right back.  Sixteen-year-old centre half Smith was very solid and looks and plays considerably older.  Petkov and Paton were both very impressive.

A heavy Hearts turn out at the game in terms of staff with manager Robbie Nielson and his assistant Stevie Crawford present, as well as keeper Paul Gallacher.  John Robertson and Alan Preston also at the game.

Full Time: Civil Service Strollers 0 Hearts 4

Admission: £5

Civil Service Strollers: 1 Stuart Burnside, 2 Christopher Milligan (Campbell 77), 3 Alex Brown (McWhirter 45), 4 Robbie Laird, 5 Darren Bowie (Hutchison 77), 6 Jack Downie (Clapperton 78), 7 David Stewart (Crane 64), 8 Matthew Cunningham (Turnbull 45), 9 Ian Ballantyne (Boyle 64), 10 Jordan Finnie (Law 45), 11 Stephen Anderson (Hogg 74).  Subs: 12 Sean Turnbull, 14 Jordan Boyle, 15 Kyle Hogg, 16 Paul Campbell, 18 Scott Clapperton, 19 Haydn Crane, 20 Mark Law, 21 Scott Hutchison, 23 Blair McWhirter.

Hearts Under 20: 1 Kelby Mason, 2 Yves Vladislav, 3 Aaron Reid, 4 Kyle Smith (Wilson 78), 5 Leon Jones, 6 Harry Paton, 7 Ian Smith (Buddle 62), 8 Alex Petkov, 9 Russell McLean, 10 Andy Irving (Currie 69), 11 Bogoslav Todorov (T).  Subs: 12 Rory Currie, 14 David Wilson, 15 Seb Buddle (T).

Referee: Peter Stuart

Programme: £2

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