The manager picked a very positive side and I think that shows that he trusted his back four and the goalkeeper. The injury to Adrian Mrowiec in some ways maybe forced Paulo Sergio into such an attack-minded team, but his selection was vindicated in the performance and the result.
The first-half performance was excellent and I thought Ian Black in particular pulled the strings. He seems to do well in the derby matches. The first half was probably as good as I’ve seen from him and the pass for the first goal was exquisite. In fact it reminded me of a pass that old Hearts midfielder put through to Wayne Foster at Easter Road many years ago! In the second half Hibs upped the tempo and had a couple of occasions when they threatened slightly but I think we were well worth our victory.
The manager now has a wee selection headache of a good kind in defence if everyone’s available on Wednesday because I thought Darren Barr was exceptional. I also thought Andy Webster looked very comfortable next to Darren, so Paulo will have a decision to make over whether or not Marius Zaliukas comes back into the side for St Mirren.
I also thought we saw yesterday how important Stephen Elliott is for the team. This is nothing to do with young Scott Robinson, but I thought we missed Elliott’s presence a lot. He brings so much to the team, so hopefully he can shake off his injury for Wednesday.
It was a really important win because St Johnstone, Dundee United and Motherwell, who are the three teams we are in direct competition with, all won on Saturday. It’s set us up perfectly for another massive Scottish Cup game against a St Mirren side who will hopefully be feeling a bit fragile on the back of their 3-0 defeat on Saturday. After that we have another big game in the league away to St Johnstone on Saturday and my one concern at the moment is whether the squad is equipped to deal with so many big games back-to-back. The saving of legs and energy levels will be very important between all these games, so it will be interesting to see how often they train over the next few days.
It may well be that they don’t do any given what they’ll have to put into the game in Paisley. It really is a massive game because everyone at Hearts is placing so much stock in the Scottish Cup. I’m really looking forward to Wednesday. After seeing yesterday’s League Cup final, both St Mirren and Hearts will now believe that, if they were to get to the semi-finals, beating Celtic at Hampden wouldn’t be as insurmountable task as it might have previously seemed. On that note, I have to give maximum credit to Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels – he’s been a breath of fresh air for Scottish football.
From a Hearts supporter’s perspective we have to be realistic in terms of how much we can expect the team to eke out when the big games are coming so thick and fast and we’re picking up injuries and suspensions. There’s also this irritation of the wage delays rearing its head again, although the players have to be applauded for putting it to one side again.
I was a bit baffled by the statement the club put out regarding the wages and “stagnating” players being a drain on the club. If, at one point, you have 60-odd players on your books, it’s only natural that many of them are going to “stagnate” because they won’t be able to get regular games. A few people, myself included, pointed out some time ago that having too many players was not healthy for the club, but hopefully people at the club will have learnt lessons. Whatever unfolds, hopefully by next Monday I’m reflecting on a great week for Hearts.