GOALS by Ryan Stevenson and Jamie Hamill gave Hearts victory against Crusaders in Belfast, but it will have been the return of Danny Wilson which satisfied manager Gary Locke most.
Wilson, who signed a two-year deal in the summer, made his return to the side for the first time since suffering a thigh tear at the end of last season and managed 45 minutes before being replaced by Jamie Walker at the break.
His return could be a timely one and the defender will now surely have fired himself into contention for a starting place against St Johnstone in the opening fixture of the new SPFL season in just over a week’s time.
This pre-season four-team tournament at The Oval, the home of Glentoran, provided the perfect opportunity for Wilson to be thrown back into the fray and the defender looks set to be back in the first 11 for tomorrow’s match against a Liverpool select.
Locke brought Jamie MacDonald back into his side after leaving him on the bench for the goalless draw with Queen of the South last Saturday.
However, it was the Crusaders goalkeeper, Sean O’Neill, who was called into action first when he saved with his feet as Callum Paterson, making his first start since February as the result of a foot injury, managed to get a shot in.
At the other end, Crusaders came close to a stunning goal from Nathan Hanley, only for the striker’s curling effort to fizz just inches wide of Macdonald’s left-hand post.
However, Hearts were in front three minutes after the break when Paterson cut down the right and whipped the ball into the middle, where Stevenson was waiting to head into the net from close range.
Crusaders did have the ball in the back of the net, when Craig McLean sent a header beyond Macdonald but the linesman’s flag was up for offside.
Hearts made it two in the dying seconds, Hamill slotting the ball home from the penalty spot after Walker was brought down by Chris Morrow in the box.
Hearts: MacDonald, Hamill, McKay, Wilson (Walker 46), McHattie (Naysmith 73), Robinson (A King 81), Tapping (Smith 73), McHowan, Holt; Paterson (Carrick 62), Stevenson. Subs: Ridgers, McGhee, Nicholson, B King, Oliver.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Wray, McClean, Leeman, Robinson, Hanley (Cleary 73), McAllister (Graham 69), Morrow, Caddell (McMaster 60), Snoddy (Watson 52), Owens. Subs: Lacroix.