Hearts make mockery of the ‘Going-Down Derby’

Hearts have the last laugh as they celebrate Billy King's late goal.  Pictures: SNS
Hearts have the last laugh as they celebrate Billy King's late goal. Pictures: SNS
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Black Sabbath, the rock band, are supposed to have created heavy metal.

The bassist will tell you he was compelled to play his instrument in a doom-laden way because of all the drop-hammer forges thundering round about the group in the industrial English Midlands. The guitarist had no choice but to follow suit after slicing off some fingertips in a factory accident, ensuring a dull klang with every strum.

The significance of Black Sabbath, the football match, isn’t yet known. It was supposed to be the game which condemned Heart of Midlothian to relegation, with Hibernian doing the honours. Hearts, having delayed the almost near-inevitable, move on to to the next game, the latest do-or-die. Hibs, though, may yet have cause to look back to this match as being the moment the dread spectre of the Championship became real.

“Down with the Jambos, you’re going down with the Jambos,” sang the Gorgie hordes. At the final whistle the same grudging respect that allows Hibs fans to comandeer the Roseburn Bar every derby day produced a hand extending towards Tynecastle’s away end. But it was one of those scaly hands from a shlocky horror movie, reaching up to drag the Leith team towards the sludgy burbling hell.

In that same pub before the game – with the spillover pavement-imbibing in dramatic contrast to the church-door goodbyes a few yards away – the chant around a quarter past 11 was “There’s only one Leigh Griffiths.” Presumably the Hibee-supporting Celt was on the premises. He was certainly in the stadium as kick-off approached and the green-clad lot got in the mood for their long-anticipated party.

Maybe it’s been too long in the coming. Since the potential scenario became apparent, Hibs have played poorly, giving up the ghost to be top six. So the clown hats were by no means widespread; nor the balloons floating on to the pitch.

And there was only one banner – making fun of Hearts’ financial woes – which looked like it had been specially-produced for the occasion: “Juice bottles are the way forward.”

On Black Sabbath we might have expected more black humour. Scott Wilson, the foghorn Tynecastle announcer, declined to spin a track by Ozzy Osbourne’s hard-rock demons – the classic Paranoid or War Pigs or Fairies Wear Boots. But Hearts scored early and, in the direction of the subdued School End, their fans couldn’t resist the ironic refrain: “Some f****n’ party/Oh this is some f****n’ party.”

This fixture has produced the Millennium Derby, the Demolition Derby as well as 0-7 and 6-2 and the very first Hibs-Hearts match, on the capital’s Meadows on Christmas Day 1875. And of course the Derby to End all Derbies, with that Scottish Cup triumph being remembered in a banner flown in the Wheatfield Stand bearing simply the date “19/05/12”.

This one’s prospects of going down in history – as the Going-Down Derby – were dependent on Hibs. But popular wisdom beforehand had suggested that Hearts, faced with this outcome, would live to fight another day. Meanwhile their old foes – with the opportunity to deliver a day some of their fans, rather ridiculously, were claiming would be better than a cup triumph of their own – would fluff their lines.

The midfield in a derby match is never a place for fairies, even those wearing boots. Sam Stanton, something of a lone bright spark for Hibs recently, tried to probe and create but was allowed little time or room by Jamie Hammill. Danny Handling found Ryan Stevenson just as limpet-like.

Another Sabbath song is Iron Man, which was the nickname of the great John Cumming. Neither Hamill nor Stevenson is in that class but they did their jobs well.

Jason Holt, able to bring youthful energy and no little guile to the same area, would be man-of-the-match. Hibs were supposed to be dispensing schadenfreude yesterday.

The last German in green to influence a capital clash at Tynecastle was Dirk Lehmann, the over-earringed striker from the Millennium Derby. Yesterday James Collins had an easier chance than the one from which Lehmann scored after Duncan Watmore was finally able to escape the attentions of Kevin McHattie. But Collins, as quite often happens, blasted over the bar.

This fixture can strangulate the best of footballing intentions. Players can suddenly find themselves unable to perform the most basic of tasks, like lacing up their boots. Once, half the Hibs team emerged from the dressing room, took a wrong turning and walked into a cupboard. They were so embarrassed that they stayed there. The game – 19/05/12 – still went ahead and was celebrated by three sides of the stadium throughout, with the familiar five-finger gesture and chants of “There’s only one Pat Fenlon”.

But in the second half Hibs saw more of the ball and in ever more advanced parts of the field, especially after the introduction of Alex Harris and Kevin Thomson.

Hearts may have been content to bide their time for a fast break to kill the game. In truth, while Hibs had possession and pressure there wasn’t much in the way of penetration. Stanton took all the free kicks but couldn’t find his range. Jamie MacDonald was relatively untroubled throughout and even had time to pick up a shoe flung from the Hibs and sniff it.

There was Jordon Forster’s disallowed goal, which should have counted. But then the opportunity for the breakaway came and Hearts duly killed the match which was supposed to have killed them.

The Jambo faithful were exultant. At times of fitful Hibs pressure they had shouted to the School End: “We forgot you were here!” By the final whistle the stand was almost deserted…even Leigh Griffths had gone home.

A giant green blow-up champagne bottle bounced down the steps, a leftover from the party that never got started.

One more derby to come, then, with the fate of Hearts and the state of Hibs uncertain. Terry Butcher, noted heavy metal aficionado, has much to be headbangin’ about.