Craig Fowler gives his take on a frenzied, but uninspiring, Edinburgh derby
The Tynecastle Park pitch is anti-football
Remember years ago when Motherwell were rightly stated for the condition of their pitch? It continuously tore up during matches and struggled to get through the winter. Well, for whatever reason, that’s Hearts now. For years, the turf in Gorgie has been one of the better ones in the Scottish top flight. At present - depend on your views on artificial surfaces - it might be among the worse.
Ex-Hibs boss Alan Stubbs made the point after the game that Hearts might be more suited to playing at Easter Road. It’s a bigger and, more importantly, better pitch. Hearts want to pass the football. You only had to see Alexandros Tziolis’ attempted through ball down the wing that ended up in the top tier of the Main Stand, having taken a massive bobble, that it was always going to be a tough task for the home players.
Anything Alan Stubbs can do...
Neil Lennon showed himself to be a dab hand at managing in Edinburgh derby games as he got his tactics pretty spot on in this encounter. The narrow formation pushed Hearts out to the wings, and nullified the threat of Jamie Walker and Malaury Martin, who like to do their damage through the centre, while also cutting off support to lone striker Esmael Goncalves.
He also identified Alexandros Tziolis as a key man in the Hearts side. Everywhere the Greek turned, either John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie or James Keatings were in his face, and he wasn’t able to dictate the tempo of the game.
The only negative was that, with Hearts showing very little threat in the closing 20 minutes, the visitors didn’t throw a little more caution to the wind and try to win the tie outright.
Hibs’ past derby experience showed
Hearts started with seven players who’d never featured in an Edinburgh derby before. For Hibs, that number was only two, and one of those was the goalkeeper.
It told during the first half as Hibs showed the desired intensity and looked more at home with the tempo of the game. Maulary Martin, in particular, couldn’t get up to speed with what was going on around him, as Hibs made the space in the centre of the park between midfield and defence a no-fly zone for Hearts attackers.
Even the only outfield Hibs player who’d never experienced the game before, Grant Holt, fully embraced the blood and thunder nature of the fixture. Though, admittedly, that does suit his style.
Hearts lack consistency
The hosts went into the game off the back of successive victories thanks to terrific performances from Jamie Walker and Esmael Goncalves. In an attacking sense, these two will likely be the club’s talisman for the remainder of the campaign. While there’s decent support in other areas of the side, if they both put in poor showings, as they did against Hibs, then Hearts are going to struggle.
Hearts fans frustrated by Sunday’s events will be clinging to the logic that, surely, neither can perform as poorly when the sides do it again in ten days time.
Marvin Bartley is more suited to Premiership opponents
Finally, a word on the man of the match. The midfielder has his detractors within the Easter Road support because he can sometimes struggle to impact matches further forward. Against Championship opponents who tend to sit deep, Bartley is allowed a lot of time on the ball but can be pretty ineffective with it. However, as proven by his display at Tynecastle and throughout Hibs’ run in both cup competitions last term, he’s dynamite when asked to play the role of enforcer, halting opposing attacks before they even reach the final third.
He’ll be a key asset for the Easter Road club if/when they make their return to the top flight next season. Not to mention the replay a week on Wednesday.