ANTHONY Stokes must have looked at the headline in the morning paper – “Celtic stars chased for £5k bar bill” – and thought: “Right, what time’s the match?”
He must have thought he had made the right move in escaping the Old Firm goldfish bowl existence, when an ex-Hibee who doesn’t get a game for the Hoops – in this case Scott Allan – can’t go out for the night with the guys without being scrutinised, albeit that they’d chosen London’s Mayfair and a venue described as “swanky” to do this.
This ex-Hibee who couldn’t get a game at Celtic Park has opted to return to Leith on loan, reasoning that playing in the second tier was better than not playing at all, and anyway Hibs are hardly playing second-rate games right now.
A Scottish Cup tie, an Edinburgh derby, a sold-out Tynecastle, live on TV – this was the ideal stage for a man still hoping to impress a national team boss and get to the Euros. But Stokes wasn’t the only striker hoping to make the right kind of impression yesterday.
Abiola Dauda was in for his first start since joining as a kind of Son of Sow, with Robbie Neilson billing him as a more than capable deputy for Osman of that ilk, similarly possessing “pace and power”.
China-bound Sow said his goodbyes on the pitch beforehand when he was joined by Paulo Sergio. “A Hearts legend… he joined us in 2011, he left us in 2012,” foghorned MC Tynie, but who cares about the transitory nature of football when you’ve masterminded a 5-1 thumping of your city rivals to lift the cup?
Derby rivalry, though, is permanent. Hibs, striving to prove that cup failure was not permanent, settled first in the blustery conditions with John McGinn – “He’s Alan Stubbs’ man, better than Zidane” sang the away end – going close with a shot on the swivel before Jason Cummings netted only to be ruled offside.
Stokes wasn’t seeing much of the ball, although he had a chance from a corner, heading over. Dauda was glimpsing even less of it and knew nothing about the big hoof which glanced off him as he gave chase, forcing Mark Oxley into a surprise save.
A midfielder showed the way, Arnaud Djoum drilling a right-foot shot from the edge of the box. Already deprived of Fraser Fyvie through injury, Hibs’ midfield suffered another setback when Dylan McGeouch had to come off. With the team’s rhythm disrupted, Sam Nicholson’s second was an unfair reflection of the half, but decisively despatched.
After the break, with Hearts content to hit on the break, Dauda could have grabbed a newspaper or written some postcards home. Back up the other end Stokes was too high with a free-kick before being booked following a penalty-box melee.
Then Dauda had to put down his paper for some rare ball action, with his run from halfway being blocked off at the edge of the box. Hibs had virtually all the play but Hearts were sitting tight until McGinn opened them up for Henderson to cross to Stokes in splendid isolation but he skewed his effort wide.
McGinn was becoming the tie’s dominant figure but Stokes’ next free-kick spurted wide.
Finally the bombardment produced a goal with Jason Cummings, not the kind to play second fiddle, netting with a clever looping header. Hearts were hitting the ball anywhere, a mildly desperate Callum Patterson battering it straight at McGinn. But Hibs wouldn’t be denied, Paul Hanlon securing a rare replay in the great history of cup ding-dongs between these two.