Derbies are always about more than three points. Never more so than when those three points could help derail a rival’s ambitions.
Stuck down in sixth and well out of the reckoning, Hearts know they can still influence the chase for second spot in the Premiership when they play host to neighbours Hibs tonight. A home victory could also leave the Leith club’s hopes of even securing a European spot hanging in the balance as they head into their final game of the campaign against challengers Rangers.
But while the Tynecastle fans would love nothing more than to see their team bung some cold water on to the burning aspirations of their city foes, Gorgie boss Craig Levein insists it is no more important than any other derby head to head and says he wants to win it so the team can sign off with a high-profile scalp in their final home game of the term.
“It’s good that it’s Hibs,” he said. “The game has special meaning for everyone at the club, firstly the supporters but certainly for the players as well. It’s a big game to finish [our home fixtures] with and we want to win. Every time we play Hibs we want to win. I completely understand Hearts supporters’ desires to win this match. It’s been a tough season for everyone and it would be good to finish on a high.”
The Gorgie players have enjoyed just one win in the past 11 derbies, but the fact that they are unbeaten in the last eight capital tussles at Tynecastle proves that they have reason to believe they can foil the plans of the men from the other side of the city.
“We obviously won the cup tie here [this season] and we drew 0-0 here before that,” said Levein. “This is an opportunity for us to get back on track and notch up another victory.”
“There’s no getting away from the fact they have had a better season than us,” accepts Hearts defender Michael Smith. “But the games we have played against them have been good battles and I’ll expect the same tonight. If we win our fans will be happy and, although they are playing for second – fair play to them – we are looking to stop them.”