SAM Nicholson believes fans of both clubs want an Edinburgh derby to emerge from Monday’s Scottish League Cup quarter-final draw after both Hearts and Hibs booked their place in the last eight.
Nicholson scored an injury-time winner as Hearts beat Kilmarnock 3-2 in the third round on Wednesday evening while Hibs ended Aberdeen’s 100 per cent domestic record with a 2-0 win at Easter Road. With Hearts in the Premiership and Hibs in the Championship, a cup tie is the only chance of an Edinburgh derby this year.
Celtic, St Johnstone, Dundee United, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Ross County and Morton are the other teams through to the quarter-finals. Nicholson believes people in the capital will only have eyes on Hearts and Hibs to see if they are paired together.
“I think everyone would fancy an Edinburgh derby,” the Hearts winger said. “Hibs are doing well this season and we’ve had an all right season, apart from the three league games we lost. So it would be good to get Hibs for the fans of both sides.
“We just have to take it game by game and deal with whatever is out in front of us. Every team we could get is going to be hard so we need to be ready.”
Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, is eager to secure a home match regardless of the opposition. “I want a home tie. I know everyone says that, but it’s true,” he said. “You want to play at home and be the favourites and hopefully get through. It’s a great opportunity to get to a semi-final.”
Nicholson’s winner at Rugby Park came in the second minute of stoppage time, securing a dramatic win after Juanma had equalised for the Tynecastle side in the 90th minute. The victory also lifts confidence levels within the Hearts squad ahead of tomorrow’s league visit to Celtic Park.
“It was a bit of a freakish goal,” admitted Nicholson. “When the ball went over my head I was just going to follow it in but luckily it fell to me and luckily I put it away because I normally miss them.
“It was brilliant to score the winner right in front of our fans. It was great to get a win because the last few games hadn’t gone the way we had wanted. We showed good spirit because after a couple of defeats it’s hard to get back into winning ways. We’ve lost a couple of goals but we have ended up getting into the next round.
“I suppose it gives us a lift going into Saturday but Celtic are a good side anyway and we know they are going to be up for it.”
Hearts and Hibs last met in a League Cup quarter-final two years ago when Ryan Stevenson’s spectacular strike secured a 1-0 win for the Gorgie side at Easter Road. The result was to have dramatic repercussions for Hibs, with manager Pat Fenlon resigning two days later.
Terry Butcher succeeded Fenlon in the hot seat but Hibs’ form plummetted and they were relegated along with Hearts at the end of the season.
The sides also met in the League Cup quarter-finals in 2006-07 season, with Hibs emerging victorious on this occasion thanks to a goal from captain Rob Jones.
The Easter Road side, under the management of John Collins, went on to lift the trophy that season, defeating Kilmarnock 5-1 in the final at Hampden, the club’s last major trophy success.