Jamie MacDonald takes heart from Griffiths absence

IF THERE is one thing about tomorrow’s Edinburgh derby that Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald is looking forward to above all others, it is the absence from the Hibernian ranks of Leigh Griffiths.

The prolific striker, now back with Wolves after being on loan at Easter Road, scored direct from a free-kick in the last derby – which was also, curiously, the last game Hearts played at Tynecastle. In the derby before that, Griffiths also found the net for Hibs – or at least got the ball across the line, only to have his effort, again from a direct free-kick, chalked off by the referee.

“Leigh Griffiths going is probably a positive for us,” MacDonald said yesterday. “He’s an excellent player and is always a threat. He scored a cracking free-kick last time and he’s an excellent young player who scored a lot of goals last season but they’ve strengthened and, in the current climate, it’s not bad they could spend £200,000 on James Collins – the type of money we don’t have.”

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With Hearts on -15 points as a punishment for going into administration, MacDonald said he and his team-mates would not celebrate too wildly if they were to win tomorrow. They are aware they face a lengthy battle if they are to avoid relegation, and they are likely to save any prolonged celebrations until the end of the season.

“This is one game, and in this season more than any other, it’s not just about one game – it’s about the full season. We’ve got a long way back and we can’t celebrate this because even with a win we’d still be on minus 12. If we were to stay up, then we could look back at the end of the season on certain wins and say ‘what a good effort that was’, but at the moment it’s one game at a time and try to get back up the table.

“You want to win any derby, and they’re all big, but it would be especially great for the fans with everything that went on during the summer. We just want three points to get our season under way, and try to get to zero points as quickly as we can.

“We want to try and eat into that deficit and catch the teams above us. I haven’t actually seen the league table on paper yet, but it’s weird when you talk about it and say ‘Right, let’s get to nil points’.

“It’s more about the will to win than the quality in this type of match. We lost the final derby in the second last game of last season, but we’ve moved on from that. You can’t dwell on losses on football just as you can’t celebrate wins for too long.”