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Feb 4, 2012

Heart's Goodwin another A-League talent

Melbourne Heart's seamless introduction of young talent to the A-League continues, with defender Craig Goodwin producing one of the most assured top-flight soccer debuts in memory.

Left-back Goodwin, 20, was thrust into the white heat of the Melbourne derby, first up, and produced a man-of-the-match performance in his side's 0-0 draw at a sold-out AAMI Park on Saturday night.

His forward raids down the left tormented the Victory throughout, and he remained sure-footed in defence against the competition's highest-profile attack.

Goodwin also came within a world-class shave of scoring the match-winner - his 80th minute long-range thunderbolt only denied by a superb stop by Victory goalkeeper Ante Covic.

South Australian Goodwin couldn't make Adelaide United's youth team and he headed to Melbourne, where he has starred with Oakleigh Cannons in the Victorian Premier League.

Heart added him to their youth team squad this season, and so highly rated has he been that coach John van 't Schip didn't hesitate to throw him into the derby on debut to replace Aziz Behich, who is on Olyroos duty.

"It wasn't a difficult choice because we've seen him all year now and he's making very good progress," van 't Schip said.

"We had the impression that Goodwin was ready to play, even though it's a big game.

"With big games, boys are motivated, and the other boys helped him in feeling okay leading up to the game and in the game.

Goodwin joins Curtis Good, Brendan Hamill, Eli Babalj, Adrian Zahra and Nick Kalmar as Heart youngsters who have shone when given A-League debuts - showing the club's uncanny knack of knowing the right time to blood youth.

Teenage centre-back Good, who also starred for the Heart on Saturday night, said the fledgling club's culture allowed young players to blossom.

"The club's built on that. From my first weeks at this club, I straight away felt comfortable, and that goes from the coaching staff to the people in the office," Good said.

"The experienced boys here take you under their wing.

"We all make mistakes, especially young people. But when we do, they help you along.

"You feel welcome here. That makes it a lot easier."

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