Ten random observations from the Edinburgh derby

Hibs won the match by one goal to nil. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Hibs won the match by one goal to nil. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Craig Fowler with the final word on Tuesday’s Edinburgh derby clash at Easter Road

The game was very familiar

Think back to near the end of last season. Hibs v Hearts at Easter Road. The visitors had been recently crowned champions, while Hibs were looking to consolidate second place, thereby avoiding an extra round in the play-offs and the potential banana skin that was Queen of the South. That game was almost a carbon copy of Tuesday’s cup tie.

Hearts started poorly with the hosts well on top. It wasn’t quite as soon as the fourth minute that Jason Cummings opened the scoring, but the striker did give Alan Stubbs’ side the lead and they should have led by more at half-time having been well on top. Hearts then started the second half with a renewed sense of purpose, but once 20 minutes came and went without an equaliser, you knew they weren’t going to get back into it. They ended up relying on Callum Paterson’s crossing, getting increasingly desperate before Hibs broke up field and finished the game on.

As far as I can see, the only difference between the two matches are that James Keatings (unlike Farid El Alagui) missed his late chance and Hearts didn’t start with an ill-judged 3-5-2 system.

Stokes and Cummings showed they can be a partnership - against formidable opponents

The duo were terrific against Hearts. Their movement pulled the Hearts centre backs all over the final third. Part of the reason they were so successful was the space afforded to them. Having conceded so early, Hearts were forced to come out a little, and even in the first half there was plenty of space to attack in behind.

I doubted whether the pair would work together effectively as a partnership and I still harbour some doubts against stodgier opponents. Sometimes against sides that will put 10 men behind the ball, teams need a striker they can just lob the ball into, either to attack with their head or use their strength to hold off defenders in tight areas.

However, they should be a huge advantage to have in the League Cup final, darting around that wide Hampden turf, and in the next round of the Scottish Cup.

Callum Paterson was Hearts best player and worst player at the same time

Some of the right back’s crossing was terrific. Abiola Dauda, Igor Rossi and Juanma (twice) all got very good chances through his deliveries. However, in the first half especially, he was all over the shop in every other aspect of his play. Lewis Stevenson got the better off him in a few one-on-ones battles while his distribution from deep seemed to consist exclusively of long balls directly out of play.

Despite the poor performance, he still deserves credit for refusing to hide, as well as giving his team-mates a few well deserved rollockings for their lack of first half tempo.

Juanma is Marmite in the eyes of Hearts fans

Nobody seemed to divide opinion after the game more than the Spanish striker. The Hearts website awarded him the side’s man of the match, an opinion backed up by a section of supporters. The rest thought he was completely useless. There was no middle ground.

The pro-Juanma argument centred on his willingness to get involved in the match and continually look for the ball, unlike his strike partner who was quiet throughout.

While I understand such an opinion, his habit of losing possession then falling on his backside before staring longingly at the referee (who would give nothing) became tiring after 30 seconds, so it’s hard to agree.

Judy Murray digs Jason Cummings - and his swag

Andy’s mother took to Twitter after the game to compliment the striker on his individual style. “Black gloves. Golden boots. Quiff with highlights. #swag” is what she said in her tweet, forgetting to mention rolled down socks.

While I wouldn’t wish to replicate Cummings’ look for my next night out, I have to admit to a certain respect for embracing his own unique style so unashamedly. After all, you don’t need his name and number printed across the back of his jersey to know it’s him on the park. In a football structure that fails to market itself properly, it’s quite an achievement to become instantly recognisable, especially when you play for neither side of the Old Firm.

John Beaton contradicted himself at the red cards

Miguel Pallardo should have seen red for a challenge on John McGinn down by the touchline in front of the dugouts, but John Beaton chose not to issue an ordering off. This indicates he understood the nature of the contest and did his best to keep all 22 men on the park.

So why, then, was he not more lenient at both red cards? Blazej Augustyn may have thrown the ball down, but it’s hardly the most egregious example of dissent. He could easily have let him away with a stern look and a “don’t do that again”. The Cummings call is a little more deserving under the rules, particularly as Hibs had the lead and kicking the ball away, regardless of motive, can be considered an attempt at time-wasting. However, his initial reaction was not to award a red card. He should have stuck to that regardless of whatever his linesman said - I can’t imagine what the new information would have been anyway.

Referees should only dish out reds when there’s little to no alternative. That wasn’t the case here as Beaton chose instead to channel his inner Willie Collum.

Mark Oxley’s kicks are too long - which is a strange criticism of a goalkeeper

Hearts fans would love such an issue in Neil Alexander, who often struggles to reach the halfway line if he’s kicking into a strong wind. However, This was a problem for Hibs late in the match.

Hearts were piling men forward and, instead of keeping possession, draining the clock of the few minutes remaining, Oxley kept lumping it straight down the middle, over everyone’s head and right through to Alexander, allowing Hearts to build again.

Mark, you may have scored from a kick-out once, but it’s not going to happen again. Rein it in a little.

James Keatings will own the least talked about sitter in Edinburgh derby history

Keatings had the perfect opportunity to rub salt into the wounds of the employers who allowed him to leave last summer after telling him they’d rather have Gavin Reilly. Instead, he missed badly after being set up by Martin Boyle. Not that it mattered at all. It was almost literally the last kick of the game, and had Boyle decided to punt the ball straight out of play instead, it would have had no impact on the final score.

That’s why this miss will be forgotten as the years go by. Hell, nobody is even talking about it now, two days after the match. That’s just as well for Keatings. It was a pretty bad miss.

Don Cowie looks a strong acquisition for Hearts

It’s difficult to pick out positives for the away side because, well, there weren’t many. One that might give Hearts hope for the rest of the season, as they sail effortlessly into third place, is that Cowie looks like someone who will improve the Hearts midfield - so long as he’s played in the centre. He was excellent in the second half after, yet again, looking lost on the right of midfield in the first 45 minutes. Once Buaben is back fit and able to fill in at the right midfield position, Cowie and Arnaud Djoum will make a good partnership in the centre and both are tied up through next season.

The 2-2 draw at Tynecastle could have lifted the 1902 curse

Let me bore some of you all by mentioning baseball for a minute. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox, having not won the World Series in 86 years, trailed their biggest rivals the New York Yankees three games to nil in a best-of-seven games series. Trailing in the fourth game of the ALCS (semi-finals to you and I), Boston were staring elimination in the face. They recovered that night to win, then ripped another seven successive victories (three more against the Yankees) to end their curse.

Now, Hibs coming back from two goals down in ten minutes at Tynecastle is nowhere near as impressive. Not by any stretch. No one in baseball history had come down from 3-0 down in a best-of-seven series. Teams come back from 2-0 down all the time in football. But considering the relationship between the two sides and their performance in the Scottish Cup of late, it feels like it would need to take something so dramatic as Hibs resurrecting from the dead at Tynecastle to finally get over that mental barrier that’s hindered them all these years.

Or they could lose to John Hughes in the next round. We shall wait and see. For Hearts fans, though, the thought of Hibs winning the cup this year becomes even more terrifying, having had it in their own hands to eliminate them before letting it slip away.

READ MORE - Fans broadcast Edinburgh derby on Periscope amid TV blackout


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