THE Hearts squad are still awaiting payment of their March salaries after the club failed to pay them on time last week, but any thought that this would have an adverse effect on their play yesterday was dispelled as they stretched their unbeaten run in the Edinburgh derby into double figures.
A goal midway through the first half by Craig Beattie gave Paulo Sergio’s side a deserved lead at the interval, and although Hibs played better for much of the second half, Suso Santana wrapped up the win with his team’s second in stoppage time, which all but assures Hearts of a place in the top six after the split.
“Once you wake up on the morning of a derby game, whether you have been paid or not, whether you are the richest man or the poorest man in the world, it doesn’t matter,” Beattie said. “Once you go out there you forget about the lot of it and it’s about doing what you have to do to get three points.
“You saw that today. One hundred per cent commitment: people throwing their bodies on the line for the team. Come game time I can assure the fans, everybody else, and our opponents, that there’s no weakness, no mental distraction.”
Beattie’s goal came from a superb cross-field ball by Ian Black. Hibs defender Matt Doherty tried to tug the striker back after being caught on the wrong side of him, but the derby debutant shrugged off the challenge and rolled the ball past Graham Stack.
“It was a nice pass from Blackie,” Beattie added. “I didn’t have that much to do – he put it right on the foot for me. I took a little touch across the defender which pretty much took him out of the game, and I managed to put it past the ’keeper. I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve had a great day: to score on my derby debut was fantastic, but to get three points as well was very important.”
Sergio was just as delighted, his only complaint being a jocular one about the time it had taken his team to make sure of the win. “The strategy for the second half was to kill the game sooner,” the manager said.
“People tell me it’s a record because it’s the first time we’ve won all three derbies before the split, so it’s good to have that on our CV. The spirit of the players doesn’t surprise me, because I work with them every day. I know that, in hard conditions, they will stick together and fight for our jersey.”