Thursday 22 September 2016, Easter Road

The East of Scotland Shield final between Edinburgh rivals Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian.

The East of Scotland Shield is a trophy awarded by the East of Scotland Football Association.  It is the second oldest cup competition in Scottish football (The Scottish Cup being the oldest).  It was originally a knockout tournament for clubs based in and around Edinburgh. Besides Hearts and Hibs, these clubs included Alloa Athletic, Armadale, Bathgate, Berwick Rangers, Bo’ness, Bonnyrigg Rose, Cowdenbeath, Edinburgh University, Leith Athletic, Lochgelly United, Meadowbank Thistle and St Bernard’s.

Poor attendances meant that the competition was no longer contested after 1989-90 as a first team level cup.  It continued as a youth tournament and was revived in 2004 as an annual one-off match between Hearts and Hibs youth teams, acting as a fundraiser for the East of Scotland Football Association.

Hibs won 10 successive Shields from 2003-04 but were defeated in last year’s final.

The game has been played for a few seasons at U17, but last year’s game was not played before the end of season 2014-15, but at the start of season 2015-16, and the boys who would have played at U17 had moved onto U18.  Hearts asked for it to be played at U18 so that the lads got their chance to play for the trophy.

The same situation applies this time, as this is the game for 2015/16, so U18 is appropriate.  Each team is allowed one overage player in their ranks.

Oddly, tickets were required for the match and fans of the teams had separate places to buy them outside the ground.  Particularly odd that this segregation was in place when there was no restriction on where you sat when you entered the stand.  Although only the lower tier of the main stand was open, the crowd of 466 certainly didn’t mean that there was little room to manoeuvre.  I expect it is a big thing playing at Easter Road (and Tynecastle when it is Hearts turn to host) for the youngsters, but it does seem as though a smaller ground would be more appropriate.

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With an early evening kick off, it was a disappointment to many that none of the refreshment areas were open.  I’d have killed for a coffee, particularly when the temperature dropped towards the end.

Some team sheets for the game were handed to stewards before kick-off, but very few, and I think I managed to get the last one.  The team sheet was wrong though as Euan Henderson was number 11 for Hearts and Harry Cochrane was on the bench.  Gary Harkins was listed among Hearts subs, when he had been listed as Ayr United’s number 12 against Hibs at the weekend.

The tannoy announcer, who usually plies his trade at Spartans, read the teams out too.

Hearts’ Reid, Irving and Hamilton had all been away in Portugal with Scotland U17s for the previous week with three games there, the last of which was the night before the Shield match.  None of the three played in that game, but they arrived back in Edinburgh on the day of the match.

Hearts first team manager Robbie Neilson and Director of Football Craig Levein are in attendance.

Hearts defender Hamilton got a sore one in 3 minutes when he was caught on the edge of his own box by Gallantes.

The same two players were involved in 5 minutes when Gallantes was a little fortunate to win a corner after Hamilton had tackled him.  Murray’s corner picked out Porteous on the edge of the box, but he was a bit too far out to trouble Mason with his header.

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A quick break from Hearts saw the ball fall to Petkov in 16 minutes, but his volley went wide of the post.

A minute later, Gillan shot at the Hibs goal, but his effort was well over the bar.

Some nice build up play by Hearts in 21 minutes ended with Morrison swinging a cross into the box, but it was too near Martin in the Hibs goal.

Henderson found some room on the left for Hearts in 24 minutes, but he couldn’t pick out anyone in the middle with his cross.

Hibs came forward in 25 minutes and Murray found some space on the left wing with Hearst claiming offside.  His cross into the box was headed away by the defence.

A rash challenge by O’Conner in 30 minutes on McDonald gave Hearts a free kick 22 yards out, but Morrison’s effort was high over the bar.

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There was a small boy sitting in front of us with his dad.  The boy was resplendent in his Hearts scarf, but had spent the entire first half with his head buried in his computer game.  At this point he looked up and saw a Hibs player directly in front of us taking a throw in.  Without missing a step, he pointed at him, shouted “boooooo!” then returned to his game.  It seems his dad had taught him well.

With two minutes to half time, there was a scramble in the Hibs box, but nobody could get a shot away and it was eventually cleared.

No lack of effort in the first half, but little in the way of chances and neither keeper being tested.  Hearts played the better football and got stronger as the half progressed, but couldn’t create anything meaningful.  They put lots of balls into the box, but the Hibs defence seemed to win every header.

In the first minute of the second half, Murray received the ball on the edge of the Hearts’ box and crashed a shot off the bar.

Hibs started the second half stronger and were looking good in the opening minutes.

Campbell turned sharply on the edge of the box in 54 minutes, but his shot didn’t have power and it was a comfortable save for Mason in the Hearts’ goal.

A good ball into the box by Hearts’ Reid in 55 minutes saw Petkov challenge for it with a defender and the ball fell to Henderson who showed great composure to roll the ball past Martin and give Hearts the lead against the run of play.

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In 63 minutes, a long ball forward by Porteous was chased by Gullan down the left.  He went past Hearts’ right back Morrison and played the ball across goal, but it was just out of reach of Gallantes in the middle.

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McDonald played a one two with Leonard in 71 minutes and then fired for goal from the right side of the box.  It was well struck, but flashed just wide of the Hibs goal.

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A great ball by Hearts’ Leonard found McDonald racing into the Hibs box in 75 minutes and he hammered the ball past Martin to put Hearts two up.

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Three minutes later, Hibs got a lifeline.  Gullan ran into the Hearts box with the ball and seemed to run into Petkov, but the referee decided it was a penalty.  Pushing and shoving broke out in the box before Gullan took the kick himself and blasted the ball home.

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Almost straight from the restart Hibs came forward again and Gullan released Murray who would have been clean through but for a great tackle by Hamilton.

A great crossfield pass from Smith picked out Gullan in 81 minutes who won Hibs a corner.  Mason gathered the cross at the second attempt.

The game was getting very tetchy as it approached the final minutes.

Gullan tried a long range effort in 87 minutes from 25 yards after a good turn, but it was well over the bar.

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In injury time, Hibs Campbell was taking a risk when he pushed McDonald, particularly as he had already been booked.

The referee found 5 minutes of injury time at the end, despite there having only been two substitutions and no visits to the pitch from either physio, but Hibs couldn’t snatch the equaliser that would have sent the game into a penalty shoot-out.

The young Hearts players celebrated on the pitch with the Shield.

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A night where defences were on top and Hamilton at the back for Hearts was particularly impressive with his tackling.  McDonald had a good second half and Henderson a good first half.

For Hibs, Gullan was a threat going forward and O’Conner and Porteous were strong in defence.

Amusing to hear the aforementioned tannoy announcer not taking the result very well, trying to wind up the visiting support by saying that he hoped everyone enjoyed their visit to “Edinburgh’s biggest football stadium” and the “home of the Scottish Cup holders”.  Oh dear.

Full Time: Hibernian 1 Heart of Midlothian 2

Admission: £5

Hibs: 1 Patrick Martin, 2 Callum Donaldson, 3 Calum Hall, 4 Kane O’Conner, 5 Ryan Porteous, 6 Alasdair Smith, 7 Scott Walker, 8 Josh Campbell, 9 Jamie Gullan, 10 Fraser Murray, 11 Yrik Gallantes (Shanley 74). Subs: 13 Ben Cargill, 12 Callum Yates, 14 Dean Cornelius, 15 Ryan Shanley.

Hearts: 1 Kelby Mason, 2 Callumn Morrison, 3 Aaron Reid, 4 Christopher Hamilton, 5 Kyle Smith, 6 Jack Gillan, 7 Anthony McDonald, 8 Alex Petkov, 9 Marc Leonard (Ritchie 90), 10 Andy Irving, 11 Euan Henderson. Subs: 12 Harry Cochrane, 14 Dean Ritchie, 15 Ross Young, 16 David Wilson, 17 Cameron O’Donnell, 18 Connor Smith, 19 Leeroy Makovora

Referee: George Calder

Programme: None.

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