FOR some Hibs supporters, the wounds of 19 May 2012 may never fully heal.
Scorers: Hibernian - Griffiths (45); Hearts - Driver (29)
Bookings: Hibernian - Hanlon, Maybury, Deegan; Hearts - Barr, Webster, Zaliukas
But Pat Fenlon’s players applied at least an initial measure of balm to them yesterday with a spirited and at times enterprising performance in the first Edinburgh derby showdown since they were humbled 5-1 by Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.
The Tynecastle club maintain a firm hold of the bragging rights in the fixture, this draw extending their unbeaten run against their city rivals to 12 matches stretching back more than three years.
On a day when the Hearts supporters had come as much to gloat about their Hampden triumph as to crave a fresh victory, the visitors could be reasonably satisfied to leave with a point which maintains their solid start to the campaign.
This could hardly be described as a moral victory for Hibs who will need more than draws at home if they are to fill the many seats which were left empty as Easter Road accommodated one of its lowest derby attendances for some time. Yet the level of acclaim they received at full-time from those home fans who did turn up was a clear indication that they had taken the first step on the road to repairing that bond between players and support.
Hibs showed the kind of resilience which has seldom been associated with them in recent times as they recovered from the self-inflicted loss of a 29th minute opening goal by Hearts winger Andrew Driver, levelling on the stroke of half-time through the tireless Leigh Griffiths.
With lone striker John Sutton comfortably subdued by impressive Hibs captain James McPake, Hearts lacked the creativity and cohesion to exert any kind of sustained pressure on their hosts. Hibs were unable to find a winner, but for significant spells appeared the hungrier and likelier side.
After his team’s timid capitulation at Hampden three months ago, the minimum requirement of Fenlon yesterday was to ensure they brought an acceptable level of commitment to their quest for atonement. In a high octane contest more in keeping with the fixture’s traditions, with poise and composure at a premium, Hibs certainly lacked nothing in terms of aggression and resolve on this occasion.
Restoring parity at half-time was the least they merited on the balance of play, although they had only themselves to blame for falling behind as the defensive vulnerability which has characterised them for so long was in evidence once more.
In as encouraging a start to the match as the home support could have hoped for, Hibs traded early openings with their visitors. The highly-charged David Templeton burst clear of Tim Clancy on the left to create the first sight of goal for Hearts, the winger’s low cutback being intercepted at the near post by McPake before Sutton could pounce.
Hibs’ response saw them force Jamie MacDonald into the first save of the afternoon, the goalkeeper diving to his right to keep out David Wotherspoon’s flicked header from a well directed Griffiths free-kick.
It was typically tempestuous fare at times, referee Willie Collum reaching for his yellow card for the first time after 19 minutes when Hibs’ Irish midfield debutant Gary Deegan introduced himself with a late challenge on Templeton which provoked an angry reaction from the Hearts players.
Templeton was perhaps fortunate not to at least be cautioned himself shortly afterwards when, after a weaving run was halted just outside the box by McPake’s crude foul, he lashed out with a boot in retaliation. From the free-kick, Templeton guided the ball around the defensive wall to force Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams into a full-length save.
The breakthrough for Hearts was a personal calamity for Alan Maybury, the Hibs full-back making his debut against one of his former clubs. There seemed little danger to the home goal when Ryan McGowan looped a header towards the edge of the penalty area but Maybury was woefully short with his headed attempt to guide the ball back to Williams. Before the goalkeeper could react, Driver nipped in to stab home a low right-foot shot.
As the Hibs players bickered with each other in the immediate aftermath of the goal, there was a sense they might implode in a manner similar to the cup final. But they soon shook off the disappointment and reapplied themselves in admirable fashion.
Griffiths was out of luck when he smashed a fine effort from a difficult angle against MacDonald’s right post, but the on-loan Wolves striker was rewarded for his industry and persistence with the 45th minute equaliser. Lewis Stevenson found Wotherspoon in space on the right and his low cross found the Hearts defence wanting as Griffiths latched onto it and beat MacDonald with a firm low shot.
In an often scrappy second half, Hibs produced the more fluid football and Griffiths should have put them ahead in the 62nd minute when he turned brilliantly in receipt of Paul Cairney’s pass, only to screw his shot off target. Hearts relied on set pieces to create any openings, McGowan twice sending close range headers wide after Williams had come and failed to collect corners.
A total of six cautions were administered by Mr Collum with Maybury and Paul Hanlon joining Deegan in the book for Hibs, while Darren Barr, Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas were the Hearts sinners. Deegan might easily have seen red in the closing stages, a foul on Hearts’ teenage full-back Callum Paterson looking worthy of a second yellow. But it was an afternoon when honours were even all round as Hibs went some way to restoring theirs.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James McPake (Hibernian)
There is nothing fancy or fussy about McPake’s work but the Hibs captain epitomised the spirit and conviction which guided his team to a morale-boosting performance. The big central defender was completely dominant in his battle with Hearts striker John Sutton, laying the foundations of as gritty a display as Hibs have produced in the Edinburgh derby for some time.
Hibernian: Williams, Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Maybury; Wotherspoon, Stevenson (Claros 50), Deegan, Cairney; Doyle (Caldwell 68), Griffiths (Handling 78). Subs not used: Antell, O’Hanlon, Sproule, Stanton.
Hearts: MacDonald, Paterson, Webster, Zaliukas, McHattie; Robinson (Taouil 59), Barr; Driver (Novikovas 68), R.McGowan, Templeton; Sutton. Subs not used: Ridgers, Grainger, Smith, D.McGowan, Carrick.
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