HEARTS recorded a sixth win in succession against struggling neighbours Hibs as their attentions turned to a European home tie against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, who were set to visit Edinburgh seeking to avoid becoming victim No. 7 in a remarkably productive period for Craig Levein’s side.
The Gorgie side might rather have done without a derby in the days prior to what would be an exacting test, but, in truth, Hibs were not the unsettling proposition they might have been in other times.
Defeat for the Easter Road club was made harder to bear by the identity of the two players credited with applying the final touch to the goals which saw Hibs slide to defeat. Alen Orman and Gary Smith were fated to play the roles of Hibs stooges, the defenders awarded the dubious distinction of seeing the letters “og” trailing their names in the match statistics.
It was not a day of unrelenting joy in the Hearts camp, however, with Levein revealing after the match that his influential captain, Steven Pressley, was a major doubt ahead of the visit of Bordeaux.
For Hibs manager Bobby Williamson, the fact Pressley had been exerted enough to tweak a muscle was proof of his side having at least once stretched their opponents’ defence. There was not much more in the way of evidence to suggest this, with the tender-aged forward line of Derek Riordan, Gary O’Connor and the deeper-lying Scott Brown offering endeavour rather than incision.
Pressley exited the fray after only 22 minutes clutching the top of his thigh. However, by the time he had taken his leave, Hearts were already one goal to the good, though it wasn’t all their own work.
The messy affair had its source in Paul Hartley’s corner, a poorly hit effort which took numerous bounces even before it found a muddle of Hibs players at the near post. Grant Brebner miskicked when attempting to clear, and when the otherwise impressive Kevin Thomson made contact with the ball in an effort to send it out of the box, he succeeded only in clattering the attempted clearance against Orman.
This not being Hibs’ day, the ball rebounded back off the Bosnian full-back and nestled in the corner of Daniel Andersson’s net.
That this calamitous scene was played out in front of the Hibs support in the away end made it harder to be borne, and the extravagant dance of joy conducted by Hartley simply slid the dagger in deeper.
Hearts could afford to gloat – and did. Certainly, their fans wasted no time to begin ragging poor old Williamson. He had made all three substitutions with 15 minutes to go, but no amount of tinkering could alter the fact this was a match never in the Easter Road club’s control.
Riordan, Brown and Thomson tried manfully enough, but only one effort – a drive by Riordan in the first half – could be classed as a serious assault on Craig Gordon’s goal.
Hearts, while never rampant, were simply resolute, and Andy Webster’s seamless filling of Pressley’s position meant Levein could call upon the young defender if needed against the French.
The second goal simply confirmed the victory, Robbie Neilson’s cross being turned into his own net by Smith when placed under pressure by Mark de Vries.