Hearts No 1 Craig Gordon has rightly been lauded all season for some excellent performances that have elevated him back into the Scotland team, but his Hibs counterpart, 6ft 7in Englishman Matt Macey, has not had the same adulation.
Both men merit the headlines this time around as their exploits resulted in the first Hearts v Hibs encounter of the 2021/22 campaign ending in a goalless draw.
A win for either capital club would have moved them top of the Premiership, but in the end they remain unbeaten but a point behind leaders Rangers after five rounds of action, Hibs in second by virtue of a superior goal difference and Hearts in third.
This was not a dreary, chance-less derby that we have often witnessed in the past. Hearts and Hibs both played good football and fashioned opportunities. It was just that Gordon and Macey were in such fine form.
Gordon’s best moment came 13 minutes from time when he managed to divert a Kyle Magennis effort past the post from close range. He also made an excellent fingertip save from Martin Boyle right on the stroke of half-time, batting away a fierce drive from the same player on 34 minutes and did well to keep out a late Kevin Nisbet effort.
Macey was just as busy. Gary Mackay-Steven will be cursing the former Arsenal keeper’s agility. The Hearts winger had three efforts repelled by the 27-year-old, the first being a rasping shot on 25 minutes, the second – and the best of them – coming just after half time when he pounced low to his right to parry a close-range strike from the winger, who in the same passage of play watched a goalbound cross-shot tipped away. Even Macey’s team-mates tested him out, with the keeper doing well to leap up and tip the ball over the bar after it had squirted off captain Paul Hanlon in stoppage time.
Macey has not had the credit he deserves at Hibs. Ofir Marciano, the club’s No 1 for five years, left for Feyenoord in the summer. A fans’ favourite, Marciano left big gloves to fill, but Macey is doing a fine job so far. He has been solid in the games leading up to this, albeit this was his best 90 minutes in a Hibs strip.
"I had a lot of fun,” smiled Macey, who arrived in January and played in the run to the Scottish Cup final. “Most goalkeepers will say they enjoy a 0-0. Maybe not the fans but I'm happy with that. It felt like an end-to-end 0-0 to me and the atmosphere helps as well.
"It's been quite a long time for me and being a permanent fixture and not on loan. I've played a run of games when I've been on loan but now I feel part of the club and have that connection with the fans. That's been really important and having a good start to the season helps as well."
‘What I am there for’
Gordon’s attributes are more widely known to a Scottish audience. The 38-year-old performs to such a high level week in, week out and took pleasure from keeping his rivals out.
“It’s always pleasing to do that in a derby game,” he said. “The base is to try and keep a clean sheet and then try and score at the other end.
“It’s what I am there for, it’s what I am paid to do and thankfully in the big games it has gone well.
“I made some good saves but down the other end there were a few good saves as well. So goalkeepers were on top."
Gordon was quick to hail the man at the other end. "Yeah, they're good saves,” he said, with a tinge of lament. “A couple in particular; the tip over that could have been the own goal and the shot from Gary Mackay-Steven as well. He's really quick to get down to his right hand side. He's probably anticipated and gone a little bit early to make a really good block with solid hands. I said that to him at the end, that it was a good show of goalkeeping at both ends that kept the score down so from our point of view, it was a good game.”
The other key men
A draw was a fair result given the closeness in chances. Hibs will rightly see this as a better point, given it was on the road, and they were without some important players. Jake Doyle-Hayes, who has been impressive in midfield since joining from St Mirren during the summer, missed out due to illness, and Hibs felt the absence of target man Christian Doidge and winger Jamie Murphy, both sidelined for some time. Ryan Porteous impressed with a mature performance at centre-half, while Joe Newell returned to the midfield and rarely wasted a pass. A word must go to Chris Cadden too, chucked in for his first start at right-back after five months out with a fractured back and then a torn thigh. He was largely faultless.
Aside from Gordon, from a Hearts perspective, Beni Baningime caught the eye again in midfield, offering such a strong platform for his team, while Barrie McKay made a 71st minute debut and looked lively. Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn was their most creative outlet, the Wales internationalist dropping deep to find space and drive at the Hibs defence. As he gets fitter, he will be a big asset to Robbie Neilson.
These two feel reasonably well-matched, and will no doubt be jostling for third place. They are in a better place right now than Aberdeen, their likely foe for the European places. The aim now is to have an advantage over each other when they next reconvene on January 2. Those in the mood for goals will hope Gordon and Macey let their levels drop.