Hearts 2-1 Hibs; March 20, 2010.
Jim Jefferies got another one over his former player John Hughes as Hearts attempted to claw back Hibs’ lead over their city rivals in the hunt for a European place with a 2-1 victory. Jefferies was correct in stating the 2-1 win “flattered” the men from Easter Road such was the control exerted by Hearts, who missed two priceless chances in the second half.
The hosts’ advantage became an aerial one with Chris Hogg and Paul Hanlon both unfit, David Obua in particular causing endless trouble with headers and flicks which Hibs centre-backs Sol Bamba and Ian Murray had no answer to. Even before assessing the opposition personnel, he took three pre-match gambles of his own by reinstating Andy Driver, Ian Black and Ruben Palazuelos to the team following injury. Although Black had to be withdrawn in the first half through concussion, Driver and Palazuelos excelled and fully justified their manager’s bravery.
Even enforced reorganisation could not deter a home side which at times seemed to be foaming at the mouth in search of more goals.
They played most of the match with Eggert Jonsson and Lee Wallace at centre-back, Palazuelos at left-back and Larry Kingston and Ryan Stevenson anchoring central midfield. The makeshift back four were rarely troubled by a toothless visiting attack, while at the other end maroon shirts were queuing up to score.
Driver capitalised on 24 minutes to open the scoring with a powerful shot high into the net after substitute Suso’s cross struck Graham Stack’s left post and landed at the winger’s feet. Three minutes later, Driver’s corner was headed goalwards by Jonsson and Gary Glen head-flicked it past Stack with a piece of predatory opportunism reminiscent of John Robertson at his best.
Hibs’ disarray was exemplified moments later when Stack emerged from his penalty box to head clear and barely made contact. Hearts failed to capitalise but at 2-0 it seemed the visitors would become lambs to the slaughter. That they didn’t was simply down to profligate Hearts finishing.
The second half was only 90 seconds old when Suso, with the goal gaping, somehow managed to flick Obua’s cross over the crossbar from four yards. Stack then stopped a header from Glen and a drive from Stevenson as most observers began to wonder if Hearts would be able to kill the game dead. When Derek Riordan converted Wotherspoon’s cross on 79 minutes, there seemed to be hope for Hibs. But Hibs’ attacking had almost petered out and they could not fashion a late equaliser. For Jefferies, it was a welcome return to Edinburgh’s footballing rivalry after his last derby, a 6-2 defeat at Easter Road