In recent years, a visit to Easter Road has held few fears for Hearts – with only 1 defeat in the last 7 matches there. However last week`s capitulation in the 3-0 home defeat against Kilmarnock had me slightly concerned that Colin Calderwood might be able to get just enough out of his Hibs team to catch us cold.
I needn`t have worried. Today`s match could definitely be filed in the “scrappy game dominated by Hearts” drawer, as Jim Jefferies continued his 100% derby-winning record since he returned as manager in January.
JJ gave a first start to Stephen Elliott and recalled David Templeton – a move which paid off handsomely. Elliott proved a real handful for the Hibs defence all day as he prowled around looking to get into space for flicks and passes. Templeton had a fine first half, capped by a wonderful solo goal when he held off 4 Hibs defenders as he drove into the box and placed a simple right-foot shot past keeper Brown. For individual skill and control, this must be one of the best goals we`ve seen in a derby for many a long year – and there`s no doubt that young David could end up being worth a few million pounds to Hearts one day if he stays clear of serious injury.
Just as Hibs were starting to gain better possession in the 2nd half, Hearts struck again. Kyle reacted quickly to a free-kick to place a header into space for Templeton to run on to. The ball bounced off a defender, and Stephen Elliott showed good awareness to hammer a left-foot shot into the net.
Throughout the match, Hearts looked the more purposeful team – perhaps it was confidence borne out of having won more derbies in recent years than Hibs. Kello`s only serious save was to cut out a dangerous low cross in the 2nd half – however he dealt well with whatever came his way. Our defence doesn`t look the greatest, but it dealt with a poor Hibs attack fairly easily.
Kevin Kyle seemed to suffer cuts on 3 occasions in a bruising battle with the Hibs defenders. Although often looking clumsy, his style of play was more effective today than it was last week against Killie.
The last 5 minutes saw some disgraceful scenes. A disgraceful lunge from behind on Skacel by Riordan (with his studs heading for Rudi`s knee) resulted in referee Collum showing the Hibs captain a straight red card. This prompted several nutcases in the new Easter Road stand to pelt Rudi with coins and other missiles. As Hearts fans celebrated the win at full-time, there were reports of seats being destroyed and thrown. No doubt the SFA will impose some kind of fine on both clubs for these ridiculous examples of fans` behaviour.
Everyone performed adequately for Hearts – with Jonsson, Black, Skacel, Templeton, Kyle and Elliott being the pick of them (in my opinion). However, we have to hope for a better performance against Celtic on Wednesday at Tynecastle.
As for Hibs, the sending off of Riordan (and his low-key performance having been appointed captain) may well have prompted Colin Calderwood to think that his most talented footballer is possibly his team`s biggest problem too.