It is a travesty that we’re not discussing a valuable three points attained over our city rivals after yesterday’s derby at Easter Road. There’s no escaping reality that Leigh Griffiths’ thunderous free-kick should have wrapped up victory in an encounter where real genuine quality was at a minimum.
Following such an emphatic cup victory over Kilmarnock last weekend, the players would have been buoyant ahead of the third derby clash of the season. The uncertainty of these fixtures over the years only continues to enhance the tension both out on the pitch and amongst the supporters high in the stands. Even the most composed footballers have been caught up in such an occasion and it is only when you step onto the field that you appreciate the rivalry that exists between the two clubs.
With the upheaval surrounding the Tynecastle club at this moment in time, interim manager Gary Locke was the ideal figure to lead his side into such an important fixture. As a manager of any club in a local derby, you hope that the players perform to the best of their abilities, as criticism can be extremely forthcoming from a variety of sources should standards slip below expectations.
With this in mind, surely such criticism can be extended to that of the officials when they fail to award a goal that was fit to win any football match across the world. I really am lost for words with the incompetency of some of today’s referees and their assistants. You only have to consider this season’s Champions League fixtures which incorporate six match day officials, yet time and time again mistakes are made.
Yesterday’s match carried all the traits of one likely to be decided by a moment of magic and Griffiths certainly provided it with a quite wonderful display of technique. As a fanatical Hibs supporter himself, I feel extremely sympathetic towards an individual who has dreamed of scoring the winner in an Edinburgh derby to have such a moment shattered by such a shambolic decision.
You can understand when it is a close call that such decisions can work against you, but when it is so blatant that the ball has crossed the line to everyone else in the ground, and to those watching on television across the world, it is extremely difficult to accept what is such an injustice to the club – there are simply no excuses. What really frustrates me is that managers and players alike are often summoned to disciplinary hearings in the aftermath of any controversy during football matches, yet this is likely to go unpunished and put down as a mistake on the officials’ behalf. Match officials can, of course, only give what they see, but calling these huge decisions is what their job entails and, ultimately, what they are paid to do.
What a lot of people need to appreciate is professional footballers spend hours each day preparing for such a moment to showcase their ability. Yesterday it was Griffiths’ moment to step forward and deliver and to have a goal disallowed in such a manner must be extremely difficult to take. Of course, Hearts had their chances in the first half and were perhaps unlucky not to take some of those opportunities, but I think it will be the Hibs fans who will be feeling more aggrieved today.
In his post-match interview, Pat Fenlon looked completely shocked with what he had witnessed before him, but he must refocus his troops to concentrate on the remaining matches this season. We have a lot to look forward to, but face a right battle to ensure we are in the top-six when the league splits next month. Hopefully, the players can take some inspiration from yesterday’s events and go on and secure a top-six place, which I believe we deserve from this season’s performances. Then there is the small matter of a Scottish Cup semi-final clash with Falkirk, where another trip to Hampden beckons. Let’s hope it won’t be our last trip to the national stadium this season for us Hibees.