What went right and wrong for Hearts and Hibs in the Edinburgh derby - and the key change which went under the radar

The Edinburgh derby has a history of being a game which may promise much but delivers very little.

The 1-1 draw served up by Hibs and Hearts at Easter Road on Sunday wasn’t one which underwhelmed. There were goals, chances, colour, noise and drama.

When the dust settled following the jubilant celebrations of the home crowd, it was Lee Johnson who would have been the happier of the two managers, Robbie Neilson having witnessed his side give up two points and his first competitive derby win at Easter Road.

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The game will, of course, be remembered for Martin Boyle and his involvement off the bench having returned from Al-Faisaly.

It appeared he was going to be introduced but his presence in the squad gave Hibs fans a huge lift going into the game, another lift when he was sent to warm-up for the first time. That increased ten-fold when he was brought on with just under half an hour remaining and Hibs trailing.

When he, predictably, reacted quickest to Elie Youan's cut-back, Easter Road was ready to lift off.

Boyle connection

Boyle spoke of having not played since June 28 and having to flip into football mode late on Saturday evening when he was told he was going to be involved. It made complete sense for Johnson to do.

The Edinburgh derby was a largely entertaining match.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)The Edinburgh derby was a largely entertaining match.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
The Edinburgh derby was a largely entertaining match. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

His involvement had the capacity to change the mood and feeling amongst Hibs fans. Giving them extra belief that no matter the situation, Boyle would be able to produce. The Australian international’s connection with the Easter Road faithful is not all that dissimilar to Hearts and Rudi Skacel, the Czech a constant thorn in the side of the Hibees.

Boyle elevates Hibs. As he did on Sunday and as he will do going into the rest of the season.

It will be interesting to see Johnson’s preferred XI going forward. Despite creating the most chances in the match, Ewan Henderson’s powers are hindered on the left. His vision and passing ability should suit Boyle and Youan’s pace and movement further ahead. On paper all three should thrive off a target man like Christian Doidge, while the return of Kyle Magennis from injury would be most welcome. Josh Newell and Josh Campbell pushed forward but neither provides the goal threat that Magennis does.

The Hibs boss also deserves credit for another change he made which had a big impact even if it will go under the radar.

Martin Boyle's presence elevated Hibs.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)Martin Boyle's presence elevated Hibs.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Martin Boyle's presence elevated Hibs. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
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Jake Doyle-Hayes replacing Nohan Kenneh gave Hibs a more progressive passer as Hearts dropped deeper and the home side got more possession. During Kenneh's 80 minutes on the pitch he completed 16 passes. The Irishman completed 14, while creating a chance.

One aspect Johnson may have to consider going forward is Ryan Porteous’ position on the left of the centre-back partnership. A few times in the first-half he had passes go astray or be cut out by the Hearts midfield.

Hearts XI

In the build-up to the game, there was plenty of debate amongst Hearts fans as to how Robbie Neilson should line-up and how he would line-up.

Lawrence Shankland and Barrie McKay are two of Hearts' dangerous quartet.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)Lawrence Shankland and Barrie McKay are two of Hearts' dangerous quartet.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Lawrence Shankland and Barrie McKay are two of Hearts' dangerous quartet. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

When the team was announced it was largely welcomed by the Tynecastle support.

The back four was reliable and solid as they demonstrated for the 63 minutes they played together until Michael Smith was substituted due to injury. Alex Cochrane and Craig Halkett were very good, protected by an assured display from Peter Haring, who made the most tackles (4), won the most duels (14) and recovered the ball nine times.

That gave the front four a solid platform to play from. Barrie McKay started on the right with James Forrest switching to the left, most likely to provide Cochrane with protection against the bombarding runs of Chris Cadden. The Hibs right-back fired in a couple of dangerous crosses early on with Neilson switching back to default.

McKay is more suited on the left, as shown with the opening goal, able to move onto his right foot and clip a pass over the top.

The front four caused all sorts of issues at the start of the second half. Liam Boyce’s movement deep, balanced by Forrest and McKay making runs in behind. In the five or so minutes after the break, Hearts should have put the game to bed.

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Then came Smith’s injury and that's where much of the post-match debate focuses. Neilson made a double change, bringing Toby Sibbick and Nathaniel Atkinson on and moving to a 3-4-3.

There are two schools of thought. With neither player as comfortable at right-back as Smith, bringing on both provided an element of protection, while the formation is one the team are confident in and more often than not robust and solid.

On the flip side, some viewed it as handing Hibs the initiative. Dropping deep, allowing them to have possession, inviting pressure, asking for trouble.

A bigger issue for Hearts was in fact the lack of pace and out ball in the final third. Hibs, as they did for most of the second half, left space down both flanks, especially behind Cadden.

McKay, Boyce and Shankland’s strength is not running in behind. Forrest was removed as part of the double change with Atkinson and Sibbick coming on. All three of Josh Ginnelly, Gary Mackay-Steven and Euan Henderson, arguably the team's quickest players, were left on the bench.

The Hearts front four which started will cause all teams problems but the depth behind the quartet may be something which is addressed in the coming weeks.

Both teams remain undefeated in their start to the league campaign. Assessing the starting XIs of the two sides, Hearts are still the ones to catch but it is clear, with Boyle in tow, Hibs will be much improved.



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