Published: 23rd April 2022
A quick turnaround from Tuesday’s defeat to Hibernian was on the cards for the Young Terrors as they once again faced Heart of Midlothian, their second game against the Edinburgh outfit in 11 days.
The introduction of Sean Borland to the starting XI was the only change from the side that began the match against Hibs, slotting in at left-wing as 17-year-old Sam Lovie dropped out of the squad due to suspension, United drifting between a 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 when out of and in possession respectively.
The 18s came out of the traps flying and just two minutes elapsed before the opening goal of the game was netted by the in-form Rory MacLeod who continued his red-hot scoring streak. Centre-back Jacob Comerford stroked the ball into the right channel for Miller Thomson to latch onto, the recent first-team debutant chopping back onto his left foot and picking out MacLeod’s front-post run, The 16-year-old stooped low to glance a deft header into the far corner to give his side the lead.
It didn’t take long for the Young Terrors to add a second. The composed Lewis O’Donnell clipped the ball from the middle of the pitch to the left for Keir Bertie advancing from deep, the full-back sending an inch-perfect cross onto the head of the diminutive Stuart Heenan who looped his effort over Liam McFarlane caught in no-man’s land and doubled United’s advantage inside ten minutes.
The game settled and the visitors began to get a foothold in the game, with Callum Sandilands, who netted four times in the last meeting between the sides, picking up dangerous pockets of space between the full-backs and centre-halfs and receiving the ball on the half-turn before looking to release his overlapping teammates.
The aforementioned passage of play almost saw Hearts get on the scoresheet, Luke Rathie delivering across the area towards Macaulay Tait who would’ve had a tap-in but for the crucial intervention of Thomson.
With 16 minutes on the clock though the Gorgie men pulled one back, Rocco Friel arriving into the box late to slam Tait’s cross from the left high into the roof of the net.
The goals were flying in and showed no signs of stopping, with United restoring their two-goal lead soon after. Adam Carnwath looked to receive with his back to goal but was clumsily bowled over by Rathie, the referee showing no hesitation as he pointed to the spot. Talisman MacLeod stepped up and converted beyond McFarlane with confidence to bag his second of the evening.
MacLeod then looked to tee up Carnwath as his early clipped cross from the left found Carnwath in splendid isolation in the Hearts penalty area. His left-footed volley was acrobatically saved by McFarlane, the rebound falling to Heenan just three yards out who somehow managed to divert the ball up and over the crossbar.
However, seven minutes before the break the rampant Young Terrors added a fourth, this time MacLeod the provider as his teasing corner drifted all the way to the back post for midfielder Lewis O’Donnell to guide home, the Scotland U17 international’s first goal of the 2021/22 season.
The flow of goals continued after the interval, however this time they came for the away side. Three minutes after the restart Bobby McLuckie’s drilled ball to the edge of the area was half-volleyed beyond Ruiaridh Adams in the United net by the left-foot of Ewan Simpson.
United hit back with a half-chance, O’Donnell looking to double his tally for the season as he tried his luck from 30 yards but failed to find the target with a wild effort.
On the hour mark, MacLeod rode the challenge of Michael Aitken to escape towards the line, eventually looking to tee up Heenan on the burst into the box but the well-placed Rathie was present to intervene before the ball reached the back post.
Hearts began to sow seeds of doubt in the back of tangerine minds when they pulled it back to 4-3 with 25 to play. A poor challenge by Thomson allowed McLuckie the opportunity to deliver into the mixer and his cross caused chaos, the ball eventually dropping for substitute James Wilson to slot past the keeper from close-range.
The maroon comeback was completed almost immediately after the restart, United’s failure to clear their lines again the downfall. A strong header from midfield towards the box concocted a 50-50 scenario between Adams and Wilson, the ball ricocheting back off the latter into the path of MacKenzie Ross who stroked it past a despairing lunge from Comerford into the empty net.
Against the run of play, which now completely flowed in the direction of the United goal, United regained the lead. An exquisite, defence-splitting pass from Craig Moore found Heenan racing through on goal and he had the composure to chop back inside Hearts Skipper Callum Flatman onto his right foot before burying into the near-post from 18 yards.
Another couple of chances for the hosts followed, the unmarked Carnwath heading O’Donnell’s cross straight at the keeper and MacLeod having a venomous strike from inside the area saved by McFarlane’s outstretched leg after a lung-bursting run from Thomson which saw him dance beyond the challenge of five opponents.
The clock ticked towards the 90th minute, and it looked as though the Young Terrors were set to claim their second victory of the season over Steven Naismith’s side. Unfortunately, two lapses in concentration from the defence saw Hearts score two goals in as many minutes. The first saw Wilson receive a cut-back from the by-line and he controlled before coolly slotting into the far corner under little pressure from United’s rear-guard, before Wilson was presented with the opportunity to complete his hat-trick from the spot, a needless challenge from Arron Donald seeing him bundle Sandilands to the floor and leaving the referee with little choice but to award a spot-kick. The 15-year-old immediately grabbed the ball and struck it home despite Adams coming agonisingly close to denying him as he got a strong glove to the penalty.
This proved to be the last action of an exhilarating 90 minutes at the RPC which saw no fewer than eleven goals, the Young Terrors unfortunately coming out on the wrong side of a 5-6 goal-fest. Ryan Moon’s side now face Celtic on Tuesday evening in the inaugural match at Gussie Park after its first phase of redevelopment has been completed.