HEARTS have not had their problems to seek this season, but no matter how bleak things may get in Gorgie, it seems they can always rely on the Edinburgh derby for inspiration.
Hearts 2- 0 Hibernian
SCORERS: Hearts; Carrick (6), King (90)
Referee: S McLean
This was their fourth meeting of the season with their old rivals, their third win, and by far the most important.
Needing at least a point to avoid relegation as a result of St Mirren’s draw at Inverness on Saturday, Gary Locke’s team took all three in some style yesterday. Any undue pressure Hearts might have felt because of the magnitude of the occasion was quickly dispelled by Dale Carrick’s opening goal, and
although they were fortunate to see a Jordon Forster effort wrongly disallowed for offside late in the second half, they ran out worthy winners.
Apart from that header by their centre-half, Hibernian rarely troubled Jamie MacDonald in the Hearts goal. Another hapless afternoon for them appeared to be complete when Alan Maybury was sent off for a second bookable offence with minutes to play, but substitute Billy King rubbed salt into their wounds with a second goal for Hearts in stoppage time.
Hearts have known for some time that relegation to the Championship is inevitable, but they were determined that it would not come at the hands of their traditional adversaries. That much was evident from kick-off, as every
player in maroon threw every ounce of energy into getting the win.
Hearts’ inexperience has cost them dearly at times this season, and on a few occasions they have looked resigned to their fate. Yesterday, however, they played with defiance and no little intelligence to claim their first three points since a victory over St Mirren at the end of January.
Hibs enjoyed good spells in the game, with Duncan Watmore being effective at moments in the first half and substitute Alex Harris posing a threat late on in the second. But over the piece this was another woeful outing for Terry Butcher’s team, who have now won only once in their last 12 league games. Six points ahead of the play-off place, they may be just one more win away from safety, but where that win will come from is, on this form, anyone’s guess.
Any hope Hibs had of easing their way into this game and giving their self-confidence a much-needed boost was destroyed when Hearts took the lead after six minutes with the first real attack of the game. Callum Paterson’s cross from the right found Ryan Stevenson near the penalty spot. He had ample room in which to cushion a header down to Carrick, who prodded home from six yards.
The Hibs defence looked culpably slow to respond to Paterson’s cross in that instance, and they were made to look awkward again moments later when Stevenson made room for himself down the left. His pass inside found David Smith, but his shot was comfortably saved by Ben Williams.
Hibs’ distribution from the back was poor, with Michael Nelson being particularly guilty of hoofing the ball thoughtlessly either upfield or out of play. When the visitors did play the ball forward with a degree of accuracy,
Watmore saw a lot of it, but the right winger was generally well policed by Kevin McHattie.
With around half an hour played, the on-loan Englishman got the better of his marker and linked up with Maybury to find Danny Handling, but Handling screwed his shot wide of the target. Hibs had begun to find more space around the Hearts box by that time, but lone striker James Collins struggled to connect with his midfield. At the other end, Sam Nicholson and Carrick combined to get the ball in the net, but the assistant referee’s flag was already up for
Sam Stanton curled a free kick wide of the right post, then came Hibs’ best chance of the half, laid on a plate for Collins by Watmore. Making progress down the right, Watmore stopped suddenly to get clear of McHattie. He then sent the ball back invitingly for Collins, but the striker blasted over from 15 yards.
Handling shot past after good work by Tom Taiwo as Hibs tried to mount sustained pressure, but the closing minutes of the half belonged to Hearts. Carrick shot over on the turn after a Stevenson break on the left, then a 30-yard shot by Nicholson was kept out by an acrobatic save from Williams.
Hibs began the second half by pressing for the equaliser that might have put an entirely different complexion on the game, but it was Hearts who nearly scored the second goal of the contest when Smith drove a shot across goal and just wide of Williams’ far post. Terry Butcher made two substitutions in quick succession, bringing on Harris for Watmore and Kevin Thomson for Taiwo, and the changes produced Hibs’ best spell of the match.
With less than ten minutes to play, Forster had the ball in the net with a well-directed header back across goal from a Lewis Stevenson cross. The assistant referee’s flag was up and the goal was chalked off, but replays showed that at least one defender was playing Forster onside.
That was as close as Hibs came to grabbing an equaliser, and in the time that remained their desperate push
forward left their defence exposed. Former Hearts player Maybury saw red for a second yellow after ending a lightning-quick break by bringing down King, then in stoppage time another break put the visitors out of their
The inventive Nicholson made ground down the right before passing to Stevenson, whose pass infield was weighted perfectly for King to run on to. As Williams came out to close him down, King deftly took the ball round the goalkeeper then stroked it into the net to send three-quarters of the ground into delirium. The away end, full at kick-off as Hibs fans planned to celebrate their neighbours’ demise, was all but empty by the time Steven McLean blew the whistle for full-time moments later.
Hearts: MacDonald, Paterson, McGowan, Wilson, McHattie, Smith (McCallum 77), Hamill, Holt (Robinson 87), Nicholson, Stevenson, Carrick (King 82). Subs not used: Ridgers, McGhee, McKay, Walker.
Hibernian: Williams, Maybury, Forster, Nelson, McGivern, Watmore (Harris 67), Taiwo (Thomson 69), Stanton, Stevenson, Handling (Cairney 85), Collins. Subs not used: Murdoch, Boateng, Craig, Heffernan.