BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Russell McLean and Dale Baxter stole the show at Tynecastle as Hearts ended a decade of hurt in the East of Scotland Shield with a 3-1 win over Hibernian.
After withstanding Hibs pressure in the first period, Baxter broke the deadlock after the interval, clinically converting from close-range following some excellent work from McLean.
McLean, 17, was snapped up from Alloa during the summer and he was illustrating his worth at Tynecastle with a dominant display leading the line for the Wee Jambos. He doubled the hosts’ lead after Baxter turned provider.
Jamie Gullane halved arrears after 78 minutes, but a close-range header by Euan Henderson settled any lingering nerves and Hearts skipper Sean McKirdy, who has already featured for the first-team this season, lifted the silverware.
Hibs, seeking their 11th consecutive triumph in the annual showpiece and coached by former Hearts duo Lee Makel and Grant Murray, were immediately in the ascendancy, with Kevin Waugh crashing a volley just wide.
Oli Shaw, a goalscorer in Hibs’ triumph in this competition last year, then rippled the side netting with a sharp drive.
However, Hearts took the initiative in the second period, with Ian Smith rattling the cross-bar with a fine curling effort from 25 yards.
That proved a temporary reprieve for the visitors, with Liam Fox’s youngsters claiming the lead after 52 minutes.
Rangy striker McLean was the architect, surging into the box before picking out Baxter on the penalty spot – and the diminutive midfielder made no mistake in sweeping the ball beyond Grant Goodfellow.
Hibs were rocking and only a desperate goal-line clearance stopped McLean from bundling the ball into the net following an almighty stramash inside the penalty area.
Hearts did finally double their lead and, once again, it was the potent partnership of Baxter and McLean which did the damage. Baxter danced to the byline and found a perfect cut-back for McLean, who clinically dispatched his shot beyond Goodfellow.
The Hibees were given late hope when Gullane picked the pocket of Hearts kid Smith, before calmly slotting beyond Kelby Mason from 12 yards to halve arrears.
However, the Jambos’ response was immediate, with Henderson heading home from close range to secure a 3-1 triumph.
Hearts: Mason; Hamilton, Baur, Jones, Reid; McKirdy, I Smith; Moore (Henderson 66), Baxter, Morrison; McLean. Subs not used: Brown, Irving, Johnstone, Stevenson.
Hibernian: Goodfellow; Donaldson, Waugh, Porteous, Stirling; Watson, A Smith, Breen (Galantes 85), Murray; Shaw, Gullane. Subs not used: Costello, Campbell, Barfoot.