THIS was a match for which the phrase “not a classic” might have been coined. Both teams were below their best, Hearts dominating much of the game yet failing to create chances, and
Hibernian playing with a hesitancy which they previously seemed to have shrugged off this season.
Hibs: Wotherspoon (83)
There was not even the compensation, common in many Edinburgh derbies which lack finesse, of a ferocious, high-tempo encounter. It was more of a studied contest, in which the two clubs largely maintained their discipline, with none of the four yellow cards being for anything malicious.
Having said that, for Hibs at least, the result mattered far more than the performance. A first victory over Hearts in 13 attempts, it was also the home team’s first win against their neighbours in the Scottish Cup since 1979.
Having thrown away games they should have won last season, they are entitled to regard it as progress that they can now win matches they should perhaps only have drawn.
The only goal of the game was fortuitous, entering the net when Marius Zaliukas unwittingly deflected a shot by David Wotherspoon out of the reach of Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald. Nonetheless, it was the reward for an increasingly adventurous approach at a stage where Hearts looked like they had settled for the replay.
The cup holders had most of the pressure and possession in the first half, and were at least the equal of their hosts for the bulk of the second. But their inability to manufacture chances meant that this never became a really
one-sided game. What is more, Hibs claimed victory the hard way, as they lost top scorer Leigh Griffiths to an ankle injury shortly after the start of the second half.
Hearts had also been deprived of one of their best players, Arvydas Novikovas, for a similar reason. The Lithuanian winger was replaced at half time by
Andrew Driver, who if less artful was more direct, and enjoyed one of his best outings of the season.
The selection of Novikovas in place of the injured Jason Holt was one of a couple of changes made by Hearts manager John McGlynn to his starting 11, with Mehdi Taouil, a substitute for much of the season, beginning in midfield in place of Dylan McGowan.
Kevin McHattie, meanwhile, continued to deputise at left-back for the injured Danny Grainger.
In the continued absence because of a back injury of captain James McPake, Hibs boss Pat Fenlon stuck with the starting line-up he has used for the last few games.
It was Novikovas who created the first scoring chance of the game in the second minute, crossing deep from the left for Callum Paterson, whose header was saved at his near post by Ben
Williams. Hibs had begun on the back foot, but their first real venture forward created a threat down the right, and McHattie was booked for a professional foul on Wotherspoon. Griffiths’ free-kick was punched clear by MacDonald, and when the rebound made its way to Tom Taiwo, the midfielder blasted a shot wide.
That was about as close as Hibs came to troubling the goalkeeper in the first half, while Hearts forced Williams into action on half a dozen occasions. With 12 minutes gone, for example, a Jamie Walker corner found Zaliukas, whose header took a deflection goalwards off Paul Hanlon but was saved by Williams.
Ten minutes later, Novikovas shot wide when he could have cut inside Maybury, being obviously speedier than the full-back. Then a few minutes after that the winger delivered a cross-cum-shot that clipped the far post after
Williams seemed to misjudge the flight of the ball.
A Darren Barr shot was too high some ten minutes before the interval, then a Walker pass across the face of goal was just too far ahead of Paterson. The second half began in similar style, with Barr shooting wide, but Hibs then became more assertive.
Proof of that came when a dangerous free kick by Griffiths went straight through to MacDonald after being missed by Wotherspoon and Doyle. It was the last significant action by the striker, who went down injured a couple of minutes later and had to be stretchered off. Ross Caldwell came off the bench and got involved straight away, initiating a promising move with a pass to Wotherspoon.
Scott Robinson then came on for Barr, who had also picked up an injury. The game was being played at a significantly quicker rate by this time, and
the speed increased again when, with 20 minutes left, Ivan Sproule came on for Doyle. He took up a position wide on the left, with Paul Cairney moving into the space vacated by the striker.
It was from a deeper and wider position, however, that Cairney started the move which produced the goal. He sent a long ball out to Wotherspoon, who teased McHattie into making a challenge, then went round the defender before unleashing a shot. Zaliukas attempted to block, but could only divert the ball into the near side of the net.
With seven minutes left to save the tie, Hearts had to go for broke and leave gaps at the back. Yet in that short time they were unable to forge a single genuine opportunity to snatch an equaliser, with a wild shot by Paterson being the only attempt at goal.
On the balance of play a draw would in no way have been an unfair result,
especially given Hearts’ first-half
superiority. But not for the first time this season, their inability to score goals cost them dear.
Hibernian: Williams, McGivern, Hanlon, Claros, Griffiths, Doyle, Cairney, Wotherspoon, Stevenson, Maybury, Taiwo. Unused subs: Murdoch, Sproule, Caldwell, Kuqi, Donaldson.
Hearts: MacDonald, McGowan, Barr, Webster, Stevenson, Taouil, Walker, Novikovas, Zaliukas, McHattie, Paterson. Unused subs: Enckelman, Robinson, Sutton, Driver, Smith.
Referee: Calum Murray