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Hibs Marooned In Derby Disaster As Hearts Still Beat Strong In Gorgie

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A stay of execution is all it is.  With the deal to come out of administration far from completed, and relegation to the Scottish Championship all but confirmed, the West End of Edinburgh is still a pretty dark place to be in football-wise.

It is there, though, where bragging rights are firmly kept this morning.  If The Proclaimers waxed lyrically of "Sunshine On Leith", the team just off the Leith Walk have had their parade rained on.  Again.

For the 625th time, Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian locked horns, and rarely in the other hundreds of games could the tension have been greater.  For the visitors to Tynecastle, it was the opportunity to go down in history, by sending their bitter rivals down.  For the hosts, not only pride, but also the opportunity to drag their neighbours in the Premiership relegation play-off scrap.  Fear and motivation for both sides in equal measure.

Although the Tynecastle Stadium holds less than 17,000 people, the atmosphere was spine chilling as both teams came out to welcome British Summertime.  New time, new era, is what both sets of supporters longed for as the roars left their throats and cascaded around the arena.   It felt almost gladiatorial.

With the first mocking renditions of “Going down” barely completed from the noisy Hibernian faithful, Hearts shut them up in the most emphatic of styles.  Callum Paterson, who just before had saved Lewis Stevenson from a red card by making nothing of a studs-into-the-chest challenge, centred a ball inside the Hibs penalty area wide on the right.

The unmarked Ryan Stevenson had time and space to cushion a header towards Dale Carrick.  While the Hibs defence appealed in vain for a non-existent offside, he calmly struck a low shot home from eight-yards out to put Hearts 1-0 with just seven minutes on the clock.  Three sides of Tynecastle erupted in joy, a colossal roar that reverberated around Gorgie and shook the foundations of this famous old ground

Behind the goal, however, was silent disbelief.  Already beaten home and away by Hearts this season, Hibs fans, instead of celebrating their rivals anticipated relegation, now stared in the face of a nightmare third derby defeat this season to the most inexperienced and ill equipped Jamboes side in a generation.

The green shirted visitors came forward, more in trepidation at their predicament than with any real confidence.  For the most part, Tynecastle played host to a collection of ironic cheers as each Hibs shot or header went wider and wider of the Hearts goal.  Sam Stanton had a couple of free kicks that went closer to the brewery behind the stadium than the net, and ex Chelsea and Southend player Dan Harding went no nearer.

Five minutes before the break, was perhaps the most unforgivable.  Duncan Watmore, on loan from Sunderland, ran onto a ball wide on the right, dribbled into the penalty area, cut inside two tackles, and cued the ball up beautifully for James Collins.  Instead of precision, however, Collins panicked and smashed the ball way over the bar.  It was symptomatic of a team utterly devoid of confidence.

By that time, Hearts had the gameplan working perfectly.  With Hibs reduced to shooting wildly, the home side soaked up pressure and hit menacingly on the break.  Ben Williams, in the Hibs goal, superbly got a hand to a Sam Nicolson piledriver from 25 yards just before the break, putting round the post what seemed a certain second.

The linesman had also come to Hibernian’s rescue in that torrid opening 45 minutes, too.  Dale Carrick thought he had doubled his goal tally and the Jam Tarts’ lead, slotting home at the far post from inside the six-yard box.  Sam Nicolson, however, who had provided the low centre wide on the left, was adjudged offside when he was clearly behind the line of Hibs defenders.

If the Leith outfit had been given a let-off then, they were most definitely the victims of an outrageous decision in the second half.  Chasing the game in the dying embers, Lewis Stevenson’s cross, wide on the right, was met perfectly by the head of Jordon Foster, who nodded home from the edge of the six-yard box. 

Incredibly, he was adjudged offside, when there was clearly a yard of space in front of him and last defender Dylan McGowan.  Not just an inch or two, or even a foot, a good yard.  Hibees boss Terry Butcher was incandescent.

That, however, was just a catalyst that put Butcher over the edge.  Up until then it was the bumbling incompetence of his charges on the pitch.  Just one shot on target all afternoon, bar the goal that wasn’t, a weak Alex Harris volley that Jamie Macdonald comfortably saved, with time to light a cigarette.  In fact, Macdonald could have got the proverbial deckchair out had the sun been shining; such was the quietness of his afternoon.  Or gone off for an early bath without the need of a red card. 

Ex-Hearts player Alan Maybury, however, was rightly given his marching orders with a couple of minutes left.  The Hibs defender had already been booked for a clumsy elbow into the ribs of an ex-team mate.  When sub Billy King raced through on goal, though, he had no choice but to take him down.  He walked off towards the tunnel, sarcastic clapping and cheers surrounding him, even before referee Steven McLean had reached for the red.

Hearts joy, and Hibs humiliation, was completed in injury time.  The visitors were caught on the break looking in vain for an equaliser.  It was left to Billy King, hauled down just minutes before, to round the exposed and helpless Ben Williams in the Hibernian goal, and tuck the ball into an empty net, jumping into the Gorgie End and celebrating with the delirious fans.  It was a roar that split the Edinburgh air asunder as maroon clad men, women and children shouted, yelled, jumped, and cried with happiness.

Understandably, Hearts boss Gary Locke was in ebullient mood.  “Our wide men caused them a lot of problems.  It was a great game.  The players have showed they are improving and hopefully we have a strong future.”

Easter Road counterpart Terry Butcher was, however, somewhat less than gruntled.  “Too little shots, too little crosses into the box.  Once again we haven’t scored and once again we haven’t tested Macdonald.  We need to pull our fingers out and work harder.”  About the goal that was chalked off, he snapped, “It’s scandalous.  It’s a horrendous call by the linesman.”

The ex-England captain knows, though, to focus on the dissallowed goal would just paper over the cracks of his faltering team.  Bereft of confidence, or any conviction in their play, Hibernian are sleep walking into the relegation play-off scrap.  Six games left, six points clear.  Crucially, though, they have to play everyone around them, who have all shown more fight for the battles ahead by picking-up points at the weekend.

As for Hearts, the future is looking anything from uncertain to bleak.  It’s been that way for a year now though.  They are used to dark clouds and looking for silver linings down Gorgie Road way.  Three derby wins, one of which resulted in ex-Hibs boss Pat Fenlon being sacked, and a run to the semifinals of the League Cup.  All done with a team made up from the youth squad and players nobody else wanted.

Not only that, but despite having started the season on negative 15 points, Heart of Midlothian are still not down.  They live to fight another day.  Whether Hibernian have the same fight in them remains to be seen.  If they don’t, it may mean Edinburgh derby No. 626 will be in the Scottish Championship later this year.

That, however, is for another day.  For now, Edinburgh belongs to Heart of Midlothian.  And deservedly so.

Heart Of Midlothian 2,  Hibernian 0