Television replays would have been handy and, with two disallowed goals and two red cards to mull over, the broadcasters must have been cursing the TV blackout.
There were certainly plenty of incidents for any panel of pundits to pontificate and argue about, from the 20th minute until the 78th. There was also some decent football and enough of the usual derby niggle to engross.
With 20 minutes gone, Hearts had the ball in the back of Mark Oxley’s net but, as the away fans went nuts, their cheers were soon drowned out by the braying of the home support.
Over on the far side touchline Andrew McWilliam stood with his flag aloft, signalling for something few in the stands, in the technical areas or on the pitch had appealed for. As far as he was concerned Abiola Dauda had been offside when the ball was swung into him at the back post. It seems he got it bang on and, while Hibs’ defence hadn’t called for it, with a huge sigh of relief, they accepted it.
Hearts fans were less impressed but, thanks to the TV blackout, they couldn’t double check with the federation of armchair fans, or those packed around TVs in the pub. Never mind, at least the Champions League games were enjoying their exclusive status.
But, while the panel of BT Sport pundits were digesting and droning on about the highs and lows from the continent, they were not needed to point out that Hibs were the team on top and, at that stage, their top flight guests were not worthy of the parity that ‘goal’ would have afforded them. Had the game beaten the TV ban, the production would have required an 18 certificate for most Hearts followers. Losing their two goal advantage in the first staging of the Scottish Cup tie had been a Nightmare on McLeod Street, the sequel was proving to be just as grizzly and, unperturbed by the lack of television coverage, the 16,000 home fans were enjoying the way their team were demanding the right to a place in the quarter-finals.
They had turned up in their hordes, bouncing down crammed streets, buoyed by kind of optimism that has tended to boot them in the nether regions when it comes to this fixture.
One sage was given pelters from his mates for not joining in the singalong en route. “We’ve been here before, though, remember,” he offered in mitigation. No-one wanted to hear that, though. As far as they were concerned, this was going to be different. And it was.
Four minutes into the match, Jason Cummings did what he had at Tynecastle last weekend and gave his side the impetus. The early goal bolstered the belief in the stands and the mood was lifted further when Dauda’s contribution was ruled out. But Hibs were well worth the lead at that time.
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson had been asked before the match if these were the kind of games that managers were judged on. He sidestepped it, saying every match contributed to an appraisal that would always be ongoing. But, having been lauded for most of his tenure, he had attracted criticism in the wake of the first match and this defeat will be costly to his reputation in the short-term.
His players did him a favour by responding in the second half and the energy of substitute and target of the Hibs boo boys, Sam Nicholson, helped, while Dauda acted as conductor, trying to whip up the fans.
But, again, they were left cursing officialdom. First Juanma’s “goal” became another casualty of a flag, before ref John Beaton stepped in to take centre stage, first sending off Blazej Augustyn for throwing the ball down in a fit of pique and then repeating himself a few minutes later when he punished Cummings for his mini tantrum.
Hibs held out, though and, while there are highlights packages on offer, few associated with Hearts will have the stomach for them.