THE personnel may change but the script remains the same. Pat Fenlon has rebuilt the Hibernian team since the last Edinburgh derby, but this new-look side came no nearer than the last line-up even to claiming a point against Hearts.
Yesterday’s 2-0 defeat made it three losses from three derbies this season for Fenlon’s team, and ten consecutive games in the fixture without a win. With Hearts all but certain of a top-six place, the only chance of another derby this season is the Scottish Cup final.
Yet, while Hibs fans may long for another opportunity to get the better of their city rivals, Fenlon warned that the priority has to be making sure that the fixture is played at all next season, by managing to stay in the same division.
“It’s about the survival of the club and making sure that we stay up,” the manager said. “Then we can see if we can rectify that situation next time against Hearts, make sure we’re in the league to play against them.”
A win for Hibs yesterday would have stretched their lead over Dunfermline at the bottom of the table to seven points, which would have brought safety within touching distance. They should still beat the drop, but the pressure will really be on if results go against them next weekend, when they are at home to Dundee United while the Fife club welcome St Mirren.
Striker Roy O’Donovan, who posed the biggest goal threat of any Hibs player and had one decent effort saved by Jamie MacDonald, insisted that the squad remains in good spirits. “I don’t think it dents our confidence,” he said. “We’ve got a big game next week. We’ll feel the pain now, but tomorrow we’ll let it go and start again.
“We know what went wrong today. We beat ourselves. I don’t think Hearts were unbelievable by any stretch.
“We’ve been playing well overall in the bigger picture. So we need to get back to where we were. We just can’t afford to start games like that any more.
“It’s frustrating, it has to be said. We were lucky to go in at just 1-0 down, but I thought we were decent in the second half. Nothing really broke for us, and the second goal was the sucker punch at the end. It’s galling, really.”
Fenlon echoed those thoughts and was particularly disappointed by his team’s failure to assert themselves enough in the first half, when Hearts were by some way the better team. “We knew coming here we’re fighting for our lives,” he said. “We haven’t won in the derby in a long time and we should be at them and in their faces. We weren’t in the first half.
“We didn’t start the game well. We were never at it in the first half, to be honest. We gave Hearts too much respect and too much time on the ball.
“Second half was a lot better, but the game could have been over at half-time. We worked harder in the second half to get back into the game and a couple of chances may have gone our way, but I’m disappointed, obviously. We had a couple of little chances. I don’t think anything major or clear-cut.”
Fenlon was seen speaking to a police officer at one point in the second half, but declined to explain what had prompted his decision. “I told the police what I think,” he said. “I’ll leave it with them to deal with it. I think they did deal with it, to be fair.”