We’re still in the Scottish Cup, and that’s the most important thing, but it was disappointing that we weren’t able to see out victory against St Mirren after getting ourselves in front.
There were one or two incidents in the game and the referee didn’t have the best of games, but I think everything evened itself out, so neither side can have too many complaints at the outcome. Over the piece a draw was probably a fair result.
There were some good moments in the game from a Hearts point of view, with Craig Beattie producing another impressive performance, but I thought we lost two bad goals. I was particularly bemused by the set-up of the defensive wall for the free-kick which led to their goal because there was such an almighty gap. The crowd of under 9,000 was also very disappointing for such a big game, but I think the fact the game was on TV and kicking off at lunchtime was a factor. If we’re going to get to the final, we’re certainly going to have to do it the hard way, with away replays against St Johnstone and now St Mirren and then a semi-final clash with an in-form Celtic side.
If you’re going to draw one of the Old Firm in any cup competition, though, it goes without saying that you’d rather get them in the semi-final than the final. Because of their history for winning on the big occasion, we’d go in massive underdogs if we were to play Celtic in the final, but, if we were to get past St Mirren, I’ve got a real feeling that we’d have a chance of beating Celtic in the semis. We don’t have a great record against them in semi-finals but that wouldn’t count for much. We played them in 2005 and only lost 2-1, but there’s certainly not the same gulf in quality between the teams that there was back then when Martin O’Neill had a truly formidable squad. The current Celtic are a decent team and they’re on a wonderful run just now, but, on our day, we are more than capable of beating them, as we’ve shown on several occasions over the past few years. . I think it’s fair to say that, up until Robbie Neilson’s red card, Dundee United more than held their own against Celtic yesterday, so there would be nothing for this current Hearts team to fear if they were to get past St Mirren next week. The draw has also opened up the possibility of an all-Edinburgh final, which would be absolutely wonderful for the city.
We can’t get ahead of ourselves, though, because we’ve still got to negotiate what will be very tough replay in Paisley next week and then try and take care of Celtic. And before that, we’ve got a derby match in the league against our much-improved city rivals. Hibs are in far better fettle going into this Sunday’s game than they’ve been for any derby for a good while, so I’m certainly not expecting a straightforward victory.
They deservedly booked their place in the semis and I saw them at Motherwell a few weeks ago when they had a real spirit about them. The fact Hearts will be without Marius Zaliukas is also a big blow as it means there will have to be a reshuffle in the defence, with either Darren Barr, Ryan McGowan or Adrian Mrowiec slotting in at centre-back as we no longer have Eggert Jonsson to cover in there. Central defence is the last area of the team you want to tinker with, but that has to happen and Hibs, with the attack they’ve ~got just now, will feel they can take advantage.
They’re more of a threat than they’ve been for a long, long time. I’d settle for a draw against Hibs on Sunday if it meant we were to get past St Mirren next Wednesday. That just sums up how important I think a good cup run is to keeping the season alive for Hearts.