Hearts produced a superb performance to beat Hibs 2-1 at Tynecastle, dominating about 70 minutes of the match in front of a 17,000 crowd.
JJ showed some shrewd pre-match psychology by not revealing that Palazuelos and Black were in contention for the game after a period out injured, while suggesting that Driver might get a place on the bench. As things turned out, all 3 started the match – giving Hearts that little bit extra experience on the park.
The opening 10 minutes were typically frantic, with both teams playing some decent passing down the flanks. Soon however, it has the home side who started to gain the upper hand. Laryea Kingston sent a vicious shot inches wide of Stack`s left-hand post, after good work from Glen – then we wondered if Hearts` momentum would be lost when Dawid Kucharski had to be substituted, replaced by Suso Santana. Lee Wallace moved to central defence, with Ruben Palazuelos at left-back. We needn`t have worried – Hearts` ascendancy intensified, with Suso having his most effective game to date in maroon.
It was the diminutive Spaniard who laid on the opening goal after 25 minutes. He cleverly nutmeg-ed Stevenson on the right and sent over a cross which Stack foolishly allowed to bounce off the post – straight to Andrew Driver who placed a controlled left-foot volley high into the net. It was good to see yet another Hibs goalie continue the tradition of assisting in Hearts derby wins – long may it continue !!
While the fans celebrated, Ian Black picked up his second head knock of the game, and had to be replaced by Ryan Stevenson. 2 subs used and the game wasn’t even half an hour old – Hearts injury problems just keep coming.
3 minutes later, Tynecastle erupted once more, when a cross was headed goalwards by Jonsson – only for Gary Glen to “do a Robbo” in front of keeper Stack by diverting the ball past him. Perhaps the recent coaching sessions from our Legend had paid off !!
Hearts continued to look the more dangerous side, with Stack misjudging a long through ball which allowed Obua to cause panic in the Hibs defence. Then Obua end Jonsson both had good headers from crosses, while Jason Thomson made some good forward runs on the right. Half-time ? 2-0 with Balogh hardly troubled at all.
The 2nd half opened with Hearts continuing to dominate. Obua and Glen showed fine understanding in the centre-circle, allowing the youngster to race clear towards goal – with Lewis Stevenson making a last-ditch tackle to foil Glen as he rounded the keeper.
Hearts were playing some excellent football now – with Glen, Obua, Kingston and Stevenson all having good efforts saved by Hibs keeper Stack.
Inevitably, Hearts started to tire a bit and Hibs started to get more possession. Riordan showed he is still a top-class finisher by smashing in a shot after 78 minutes following some slack defending – and this goal boosted Hibs fro the last 10 minutes. However Hearts dug deep to find added determination and energy, to see out the match
It was great to see JJ, BB and Gary Locke celebrate a super win with passion and dignity in equal measure. At long last, we could be seeing the “real Hearts” – one which the fans can identify with and be proud of.
As for player ratings, I reckon everyone earned at least a 9. The movement, passing and hunger shown by everyone was exactly what was needed to win a derby match – and we have to hope that the management team can get similar performances in “run-of-the-mill” games. I thought the pick of today`s performances came from David Obua, Ruben Palazuelos, Jason Thomson and Lee Wallace. Special mention should be made of Andrew Driver who lasted the full game, and overcame natural worry about his knee after all the problems he’s had in these last 12 months. Similarly, Kingston took several knocks which needed attention – these might have been enough to see him volunteer to leave the field in previous times. So it was good to see him soldier on – perhaps JJ is having some success in adjusting his attitude at Hearts now.
Next week sees another home match, against league leaders Rangers – a very tough proposition, but today`s performance could be enough to get 3 points (given a “neutral” referee, that is).
Monday`s “Ask the Club” event should be quite an evening !!