As the initial celebrations relented following the third goal, there was a chorus of “Bring on the Hibees”.
As the capacity crowd bounded out of the stadium after the 6-0 hammering, one of the biggest cheers of the day greeted the announcement that the next home game would be the Scottish Cup tie against their city rivals.
That match has captured the imagination and the exuberance has been buoyed in Gorgie by the belief they are gearing up to greet their old foes at a time when Robbie Neilson’s men appear to be hitting their best form of the season.
They started the season with a bang, winning their first seven games, but in the last two weeks they have really hit their stride, finally getting the better of last season’s Premiership runners-up, Aberdeen, at the third time of asking, and following that up with the clinical dismantling of Motherwell at Tynecastle on Saturday.
“It was a great performance,” stated midfielder Arnaud Djoum after they had rattled six past Motherwell. “We were continuing the same level we reached against Aberdeen. We have the quality, if we just keep going like we have in the last two games. They were two of the best performances I’ve seen in my time here.”
Coming to Tynecastle can be daunting at the best of times but against a side which has found the ideal blend of athleticism and technical ability and embraced their role as possible contenders, it proved overwhelming for Mark McGhee’s side. Managing a professional team for the 900th time in his career, even he lacked the answers to the countless questions posed by a Hearts team full of drive and intent, with interminable hunger for goals.
Those qualities have been evident throughout the campaign, to greater and lesser degrees, but striking the balance between keeping things tight at the back and forging forward to create the chances for goals has been the secret when things have clicked. Against Aberdeen, Neilson had been irked by an inability to kill the game off, and convert the chances that came along, but things did mesh in spectacular style on Saturday as they powered to a three-goal lead within the first 21 minutes and never really took their foot off their opponent’s jugular.
“The manager told us to take our chances more often. Sometimes we create a lot without scoring a lot – that changed against Motherwell,” said Djoum, who wrapped up the scoring with a stoppage-time penalty. “I think everybody is happy to score goals. Even though it was a penalty, I was happy to score. That was the first penalty I’ve taken. But it was 5-0, you know? It’s easier to take a penalty in that situation. I wasn’t going to let anyone else take it.”
One of six different scorers, Hearts were rampant as Motherwell, who had been gaining some traction in the league after a disappointing start, struggled to cope without Liam Grimshaw, who has returned to parent club Manchester United, and the suspended Keith Lasley. The void was an excuse for the mauling but certainly not the only reason as Hearts proved too good.
It left the home side and their fans brimming with confidence. Neilson will work to keep them grounded, insisting they have a couple of testing away ties to negotiate before returning to Gorgie for the derby cup tie on 7 February.
“I’m very excited about it because it’s going to be my first Edinburgh derby,” said Djoum. “I’ve heard a lot about it, the rivalry between the two teams. There were a few derby games in Poland but I didn’t play in a real derby. This will be my biggest, definitely. There is history about this fixture which makes me excited about playing in it.”