Hearts emerged victorious on an afternoon that remained true to the distinguishing features of this particular fixture by being low on quality but high on drama. The Tynecastle side opened the scoring through a fine goal from Sam Nicholson and then doubled their lead from the penalty spot.
Two red cards were shown by referee Willie Collum to Hibs midfielder Scott Robertson and Osman Sow, the Hearts striker.
The one shown to Robertson proved more significant since the offence for which the Hibs midfielder received a second yellow card also handed Hearts a penalty. Prince Buaben converted the award to give Hearts a commanding 2-0 lead with just 11 minutes remaining. Hibs skipper Liam Craig had earlier missed a penalty when the score was 0-0.
Hibs striker Farid El Alagui pulled one back goal back for his side but Hearts held on. However, Stubbs and Hibs defender Michael Nelson later questioned why Collum had not acted to punish an alleged head-butt offence by Hearts substitute Jamie Walker on Lewis Stevenson after a heavy challenge from the Hibs player in injury-time. The incident prompted a furious reaction from Craig, who had to be escorted down the tunnel at the end.
“I think the lad put his head on one of our players at the end,” said Stubbs. “It will be interesting to see what happens with that one. It’s irrelevant now but when you’ve got a linesman right in front of it and you’ve got a referee – if you look at it, you’ll see what happens.” Nelson was also confident that the video footage would reveal the culprit. “The linesman was on that side and Willie [Collum] wasn’t far from it,” he said. “I’m sure it will get reviewed and they’ll make a judgment on it.
“I think that’s why Liam was annoyed. It all happened from their free-kick. I think whoever took it has gone to dummy it and actually touched the ball. Liam has thought he had taken the free-kick and gone in to challenge and it’s all gone on from there. But if there was a head used you can’t get away with stuff like that these days. You get found out sooner rather than later.”
Nelson received a gash to his head in the first half after an aerial challenge with Sow and this cut was opened up again when the same players clashed in the 88th minute, and the Hibs defender was caught by a flying elbow.
Stubbs was disappointed that it had taken so long for Collum to act. “I’m not getting embroiled in things, but I think before the elbow incident there were another couple of flying elbows,” he said. “It’s up to the referee – it’s not an easy job and in general he controlled the game quite well. But there were one or two incidents. It’s never easy, it’s a local derby and a lot of things were going on but we’ll move on.”
As regards the result, Stubbs added: “It’s disappointing. I thought we warranted something out of the game from the way we played. The circumstances in which we lost the two goals were probably the most disappointing thing from my point of view – especially when you’ve got a team where you want them. We’d quietened the home crowd and the least we should have come away with was a draw. To come away with a defeat feels like we’ve been robbed.”
Nelson was disappointed that Hearts had not been reduced to ten men earlier in the game. “I got an elbow in the first half off the big man and then took another one in the second half which opened it up again,” he said.
“It probably took 70 minutes too long to get punished because the first one was probably as bad as the second one. It’s one of those things. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.” Hearts manager Robbie Neilson remarked that the row near the end of the match had little bearing on its outcome but he promised to look at it again on television.
“I was 70, 80 yards away from it,” said Neilson. “I haven’t seen it. I will need to take a look at it and decide from there. But tensions were high, it was two teams here full of confidence, both teams want to win the game and keep the momentum going.
“Someone had to lose or drop points, it can be difficult, it can become quite passionate, so if it spilled over a wee bit I don’t know. We’ll have a look at it.”
Neilson also defended Sow and said if there was contact, then it would not have been intentional. “He’s 6ft 4in and he’s awkward, he’s an awkward guy when he’s challenging for the ball,” he said.
“It’s maybe something we need to look at, his arm positions, but I know 100 per cent there would be no malice in it if he did catch him, which I don’t know if he did or not.”