HEARTS goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald said Sunday’s much-hyped Edinburgh derby had actually turned out to be one of the least challenging afternoons of a season in which he has been probably his side’s busiest player.
The Gorgie No 1 has been a stand-out performer for Hearts this term but, despite some heroics as the last line in a hard-pressed defence, has managed just five clean sheets since August. Remarkably, three of those have come against Hibs, with Sunday’s blank being added to the Tynecastle derby on the second weekend of the campaign and the League Cup clash at Easter Road in October that helped speed the departure of opposition manager Pat Fenlon.
While Hibs did manage a 2-1 win in the New Year derby, they once more failed to match Hearts’ desire on Sunday and MacDonald remained largely untroubled throughout the latest meeting of the teams.
He would, though, have been relieved to see the linesman’s flag chalk off Jordon Forster’s second-half header that should have been allowed to stand eight minutes from time and might well have handed Hibs a share of the spoils. However, the 27-year-old reckons the 2-0 win, that dashed Hibs’ hopes of relegating their oldest foes, could not have been much more straightforward.
He said: “Hibs could obviously have relegated us and that was something we definitely didn’t want to happen, and I think it showed in our performance. The boys were different class. It was a great atmosphere and it was just a fantastic day and a great result.
“We didn’t take much notice of the talk of a Hibs ‘party’. It’s a derby game and I suppose it was maybe there in the back of our minds that we didn’t want relegation to happen on Sunday – not only for the players but more for the fans. It’s obviously been a really tough season for everybody, and none more than the fans, and so it was almost like a thank you to them for their support.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start and throughout the game I thought we were the team that looked most likely to score. It was probably one of my easiest afternoons of the season. The boys in front of me defended fantastically.”
While MacDonald has vowed to go down fighting he knows that in reality the derby win will prove just a temporary stay of execution. Nineteen points behind St Mirren with only seven games left to play, defeat to high-flying Aberdeen tomorrow night would confirm Hearts’ relegation the Championship.