Hearts defender Danny Wilson insists that recent form will count for nothing once this Sunday’s Edinburgh derby gets underway.
Hearts go to Easter Road having halted a run of five consecutive defeats in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with their 2-0 victory over St Johnstone on Tuesday night. In contrast, Hibs have enjoyed a run of three league games without defeat and advancement to the Scottish Cup semi-finals with last Sunday’s 4-2 win against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It is a sequence which is hardly awe-inspiring, but certainly greater than that of their local rivals.
However, Wilson, schooled in the nature of heated derbies from his time with Rangers, believes that the intensity of the occasion gives Hearts every chance of emerging victorious.
“There are no favourites for this match,” said the centre-back, on loan from Liverpool, “They have been on a better run than us and some might view it that way, but it is an even game and any one of the two teams can win. It is a derby match and form counts for nothing.
“They are going really well. They have a lot of top players currently on form. It will be a tough game and we are going to them, but both sides will be desperate to win it for their fans. There will be no complacency from either team.
“We are happier going into the Hibs game off the back of a win and having stopped the rot.”
That “rot” included a 2-0 loss at St Mirren, a result which prompted the Hearts hierarchy to make a change of management, relieving John McGlynn of his duties and putting coaches Gary Locke and Darren Murray in temporary control while the club search for a permanent figurehead to lead the club forward.
Initially hopes were that the right candidate would be in place before the derby but, should no capable replacement be found by the weekend, the duo will continue their temporary role in the dug-out.
Should they wish to make their roles permanent, their application was bolstered by Tuesday’s win. Over their two games in charge, Locke and Murray have filtered out the youth players that McGlynn had built his attack around prior to the five-game slump, with a much more experienced line-up displaying greater assurance in the attacking third, resulting in two goals scored and several other chances created in the win over St Johnstone.
“There has been a realisation in the dressing room that John lost his job and the players have to take responsibility for that,” admitted Wilson. “It wasn’t just John’s fault. The standards have been unacceptable in the past couple of weeks and we were keen to put that right.
“The boys have started to take a lot more responsibility on the pitch and it showed with the win against St Johnstone as we turned in a good performance.
“We were all in together and defended better as a team. There was a much better shape about us and we were much happier about the result. Hopefully, this will be a catalyst to kick on for the rest of the season. We just want to keep going now.”
Registering back-to-back victories appears an unlikely task given the conflicting fortunes of the two clubs this season, but the visitors will be buoyed by their recent win and the knowledge that Hibs have won only one league game at Easter Road in their past seven attempts, including a 3-1 reversal inflicted by St Johnstone on their most recent trip to Edinburgh.
The home defence should also be wary of the threat provided by Wilson’s fellow loanee from Liverpool, Michael Ngoo. The towering striker had a part to play in both goals on Tuesday and was a constant menace to the opposing back line. Particularly impressive was his sheer physical domination of Steven Anderson in the build-up to the second goal. Having helped opening the scoring by jarring the ball loose from the advancing Alan Mannus – allowing Ryan Stevenson to pass into an empty net – Ngoo made sure of the win after harrying, out-muscling and ultimately dispossessing Anderson before advancing into the penalty area and rolling the ball across for John Sutton to tap home.
Hearts’ physical strikeforce will need to be at the top of their games if a similar outcome will come from Sunday.
“Michael and John are certainly a handful,” added Wilson. “We would rather have them in our team than play against them.
“It has not been coming off for them of late, but John has scored and Michael’s display merited a goal, so hopefully he can get one at the weekend.”