Hibs fans goad Craig Levein over '˜natural order' comment

The official kick-off to the match was delayed for four minutes due to flares being thrown on to the pitch but in many ways this head-to-head had actually started the minute Hearts manager Craig Levein greeted victory over Hibs in the last meeting with talk of restoring natural order.

Hearts manager Craig Levein, with the Hibs fans' 'Natural Order' banner behind him. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

That was certainly the catalyst for the annoyance and ill-feeling that surrounded this game; Levein’s jibe smouldered longer than any flare. It is a fair bet that his opposite number, Neil Lennon, went into this derby ready and relishing the chance to wade in with a retort should they succeed in getting the upperhand and bouncing back from that Scottish Cup exit at the hands of their foes with a victory that would take them 12 points clear of them in the Premiership standings.

Crucial to that was always going to be the midfield tussle.

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Part of the Hibs team that has long been lauded, with John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch earning praise on an almost week-by-week basis, they have been augmented this term by an improving Martin Boyle, who has added to his game to ensure he is more than a real-life Billy Whizz, while the return of Scott Allan, on loan, has given them even greater impetus.

Up against them, was a Hearts middle with guts and determination but little continuity. Injuries to experienced men like Arnaud Djoum, Don Cowie and David Milinkovic, have freed up openings for kids but on a night like this Hibs’ all-stars were supposed to bring the flair. They had to win the battle first.

To do that they had to get the better of Joaquim Adao. A guy with an ill-concealed hatred of losing whether that be individual tussles, tackles or matches, he is a frantic and thunderous force of nature. An old-fashioned enforcer.

Adao’s approach is appreciated by his gaffer but has been frowned upon by referees since he arrived in Scotland in January. With six yellow cards in six games he has spoken about trying to play with his brain as much as his heart and trying to curb those bookings but, abundantly aware of what this derby means, he joked that he could not promise anything other than full-bloodied enthusiasm in this one.

With ten minutes remaining Hibs fans chanted about the ease of the victory – the second goal having just been dispatched past Jon McLaughlin by Jamie Maclaren. But, while they were playing with fluency at that stage, asserting authority was a hard-fought endeavour against the likes of Adao, getting to that point had not been a breeze. It required patience and persistence.

Like a sentry manning the gates, Adao was an industrious and stubborn barrier to the men in green and white for swathes of the game and Allan and Co had not enjoyed his close attentions. Just how pivotal that role was underlined when he finally allowed Allan a yard of space on the edge of the area and he stroked the opener low into the bottom corner of the Hearts goal.

That was the moment that the lid was lifted on the pent up feelings stirred up by Levein all those weeks ago. The Hearts manager was the target of the goading for the remainder of the match. Historically
and relatively speaking his comments had been valid. But, naturally, Hibs were intent on proving their is a new order and they made it clear that they want to reinforce that for years to come.