Hearts bury Hibs as visitors' gambles fail to pay off - and scoreline in no way flattered

Stephen Humphrys rounds off an excellent day's work for Hearts against Hibs.Stephen Humphrys rounds off an excellent day's work for Hearts against Hibs.
Stephen Humphrys rounds off an excellent day's work for Hearts against Hibs.
Closed in by four high walls of fans, Hibs manager Lee Johnson said pre-match that being at pitch level at Tynecastle was like being underground.

Well, by half-time in this Edinburgh derby, Hearts had buried his side’s hopes of an upset in the first capital derby of 2023, as interim skipper Lawrence Shankland led by example.

Hibs improved on their mediocre first half showing after the break, replacing Harry McKirdy and Will Fish with the quality of Aiden McGeady and Kyle Magennis, and while that coincided with a slight slip in Hearts’ standards, as they sat deeper, encouraging their rivals onto them, the damage had long-since been done as Hearts managed to see out a comfortable 3-0 victory.

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The opening goal, in just the eighth minute, displayed all the characteristics that ultimately separated the sides, including tenacity and, most pertinently, precision finishing. It eased any tension in the Hearts ranks, as Robbie Neilson’s men showed a winning combination of competitiveness and telling penetration, covering plenty of ground, in and out of possession, but portraying a crucial inner calmness when in control of the ball.

It was a gamble to give McKirdy his second Hibs start and Fish his starting debut in such a huge fixture and both were complicit in defeat, with the latter naive to think that Cammy Devlin would give up the battle for the ball as he tried to usher it out of play at the opening goal.

While Hibs’ final ball was poor throughout, as Elie Youhan, McKirdy, Joe Newell, Chris Cadden and then Magennis all proved far from clinical – although Zander Clark can take credit for denying the latter with a superb double save – Hearts have a couple of players who are virtual bankers to net when they get the opportunity.

Shankland made it six goals in four games to take his season’s tally to 18 in all competitions and move within two goals of John Robertson’s record, and his partnership with Josh Ginnelly provided a massive test, while Barrie McKay was in the mood to delight in that opening 45.

With the suspended Ryan Porteous missing from midfield and neither McGeady nor Magennis deemed ready for a hectic 90 minutes, it was decided they would be more suited to joining the fray when the game was opening up a bit. That proved to be the case but the others had left them too much to do by the time they came on.

In their absence the likes of Robert Snodgrass pulled the strings in the middle of the park and the home side could have had a larger lead by the time Shankland made it two.

A lengthy VAR check ruled off a Toby Sibbick goal for offside but eventually picked up on a Rocky Bushiri handball in the build up and Shankland beat David Marshall from the spot.

The half-time subs made a difference but not enough to really rattle Hearts, who moved five points clear in third.

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The second half will offer Hibs a modicum of encouragement ahead of the Scottish Cup meeting later this month and will remind Hearts that there is no such thing as a formality on derby duty, but as Stephen Humphrys burst through and slotted home the third in stoppage time, it rounded off a scoreline that in no way flattered.