New-look Tynecastle ready for Hearts test
Tynecastle, managed by Murray Balloch and coached by former Livingston and Gretna goalscorer David Bingham, are in the process of rebuilding their squad.
"This is a bit of a transition for Tynecastle and we are still very much in the category of 'work in progress'," said Bingham. "We lost the services of a lot of good experienced players and it is not easy to replace them."
The players who have left for new clubs include Wayne McIntosh, Wayne Sproule and Gareth Thom who have all moved to Whitehill Welfare, Steven McCormack (Arniston Rangers), Dean Knight (Penicuik Juniors), Ross Elliot (Spartans Juniors), Paul Devlin (Edinburgh City) and Dale O'Hara, who has returned to Hearts after a loan spell.
The Fernieside-based club have retained the nucleus of their team with captain and goalkeeper John Gilbertson, along with Darren Aird, Robbie Arthur, John Williams and Eddie Mearns. They have also re-signed Brian Foster from Dundonald and introduced new signings Gary MacBrayne from Whitehill, James Guy (Coldstream), Stephen Finnie (Redhall Star) and promoted Kevin Brown from their under-19 team.
"We are still deciding on a few trialists after friendly games against Forth Wanderers and a Livingston XI," said Bingham. "The close season seems to be getting shorter and shorter but to be fair to our players they have worked hard.
"Playing against Hearts tomorrow will be a good exercise because we played them two years ago and matched them for a while before their full-time training told. The Hearts players are also trying to show how good they are and catch the eye of Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown. The game is ultimately about match fitness and the result does not matter."
Darren Murray, the Hearts under-19 coach, will bring a mixture of under-19s and some under-17s to Fernieside. There could also be places for more experienced Hearts players as the first team are not due to play their SPL game against Dundee United until Sunday.
"We may field one or two trialists but whoever plays we will be a strong team," said Murray, a former East of Scotland League player with Whitehill Welfare. "I will wait and see what happens when the first team returns from Hungary. Last season we did very well with the under-19s. Hopefully we can do the same again this season."
Whitehill, meantime, beat Dunbar United 5-0 in a midweek friendly with summer signing Wayne McIntosh notching a hat-trick and tomorrow the Rosewell club aim to continue their undefeated pre-season form when they travel north to play Super League Juniors side Carnoustie Panmure.
"Even although we won comfortably against Dunbar I was not too happy with our performance because our passing was horrendous," said Whitehill's assistant manager, Grant Carnie. "Our work rate and team effort was much better in the second half and we looked solid at the back. We did not concede a goal again which is obviously a good aspect although we are not getting carried away.
"Tomorrow will be a good test against a top Juniors team and we will rotate our squad in advance of the competitive season starting next Saturday."
Whitehill will be without William Kidd, Darren Walker and Patty Bonthrone although Danny Taylor has returned from holiday and Daryl Devlin is also in line for a comeback.
Civil Service Strollers make the short journey to meet Broxburn Juniors with manager Gary Aitchison encouraged by his team's pre-season form. "We only really had two weeks break and since then have played Bo'ness, Heriot Watt University and Blantyre," said Aitchison. "Things are going well and it is a case of so far, so good. The players just cannot wait for the season to start." Aitchison has been busy in the transfer market and has signed Mark Ellis (Tranent Juniors), Craig Anderson (unattached), Murray Fraser (Edinburgh University), Paul Lynch and Paul Cadger (both Ormiston).
Last night, Musselburgh Athletic's Kris Renton scored a last-gasp equaliser as the Scottish Junior Cup finalists drew 2-2 with Lothian Thistle. Joe Murray had given Lothian a half-time lead then headed in an Alan McDonagh corner before Musselburgh fought themselves back into contention with a Renton penalty after goalkeeper Kevin Swain brought down Paul Tansey. Renton scored his equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game.
Preston Athletic continue with their series of pre-season friendlies when they host the Hibs under-19 side at the Pennypit tonight (Friday), kick-off 7.30 pm.
Preston lost 3-0 to Highland League team Cove Rangers last weekend although manager Stevie Myatt said: "There were definite signs of improvement from our previous game and I hope that continues tonight. These games are good for our new signings to gel in with the rest of our players. We could also have a couple of trialists on show."
John Kerr returns after his holiday although Gary Kennedy is unavailable.
The Hibs under-19 coach, James McDonaugh, who watched his team draw 1-1 with Craigroyson earlier in the week, said: "We fought out a draw although it was obviously disappointing not to win. Some of our players, including David Gold and Daniel Handling, who were with the first team in Blackpool, will come into tonight's squad.
"This game is another part of our pre-season to get the players to match fitness and a chance to put into practice what we do on the training pitch."
"We have lost some good, experienced players and it's not easy to replace them"