JOHN McGLYNN would need a crystal ball to predict how many of the current Hearts squad he will still have on his books come the end of the transfer window.
The Hearts manager, however, doesn’t need Mystic Meg’s powers to work out that the struggle to convert their chances could map out their future success – or otherwise.
Yet again they created chances – albeit not many of them were clear-cut – and they dominated the second half, piling on the pressure, but they could probably have played all night without converting one of them.
The luck just isn’t with them in that department right now and that was perfectly illustrated by the statistics at the end of the third Edinburgh derby of the season, which showed Hearts had won 13 corners to their opponents’ one.
It is goals that count, though, and they just couldn’t find one, despite throwing everything at their rivals in the closing stages.
One of the best chances of the match came in the dying seconds and any goal at that late stage would surely have been the winner, only for John Sutton’s header to come back off the crossbar and then Darren Barr was unable to direct his header on target.
The former Falkirk player admitted that he was gutted not to be able to send the Hearts supporters home with a late victory to celebrate.
Barr conceded: “I should have scored there. I maybe tried to place it when I should have just kept it on target. That’s football, though.
“I think that we gave a good account of ourselves – it was just that we didn’t get that wee break.
“I don’t think that it was a great game, but, for most of it, we were on top and had the most clear cut chances.
“It’s just one of those things, it’s football. If we had taken one chance then maybe we would have kicked on from there.
“The crowd and the atmosphere was brilliant – it was just a shame that we couldn’t find a goal for them.”
McGlynn’s worst fears had been confirmed before kick-off when Andy Webster was ruled out after being laid low by the flu and that left the Hearts manager even shorter at the back.
The Tynecastle side knew beforehand that a victory would have cut the gap on their rivals to just three points, but if they were to do that, then it would have to be without one of their key performers.
Ryan McGowan has played an increasingly important role for the Jambos since establishing himself in the first team last season, but he would have been trying to catch up with the scores from the Far East after travelling to China for a medical with Shandong Luneng Taishan.
With his older brother away, Dylan McGowan was given the shout in the centre of defence beside Marius Zaliukas with Barr being deployed at right-back. Barr has been more familiar with playing a role in the middle of the park this season, sitting just in front of the defence, but he insisted that he is more than happy to fulfil whatever role McGlynn needs him in most.
He continued: “I don’t mind playing in there, it was just one of those things. The gaffer spoke to me about playing there and I said that it was fine.
“I just want to play. I have been on the other side when I have not been playing.
“Wherever I can play and whenever I can play, hopefully I can do a job.”
Hibs defender Tim Clancy was lucky to escape a yellow card with quarter of an hour gone when he chopped down Kevin McHattie out wide on the left and then Jamie MacDonald was left crumpled in his penalty box after being sent up in the air by Eoin Doyle.
The fact that challenge also went unpunished – aside from a talking to from the referee – caused a bit of afters in the dugout between Pat Fenlon and enraged assistant Gary Locke.
It was certainly beginning to heat up, although there wasn’t much in the way of football in the opening half hour.
MacDonald was hardly called upon, other than to collect a tame effort from Paul Cairney, but, at the other end, there were shouts for a spot-kick when James McPake seemed to bring Scott Robinson down inside the box.
After the game, McGlynn admitted that he thought Hearts should have had a penalty, but his view differed from Willie Collum, who, in the split second he had to make a decision, waved play on and then Andy Driver could only fire wide from the loose ball.
There were more chances to come. Before the break, John Sutton did well to turn across the box, combine with Ryan Stevenson and take the return, but unfortunately the big striker could only spin and send his dipping effort high over the crossbar.
Driver then tried the same shot from the other side – and from a little further out – but again it was the same outcome, over the top of Williams’ goal.
In the second half, Mehdi Taouil lined up to launch a strike in on goal, cutting across the box to his right and taking a shot that Williams blocked, but couldn’t hold and McGowan was there, seemingly with the easy task of stabbing the ball home from just a yard or two. Williams somehow managed to get a foot out to take it away from the Aussie when he was set to pull the trigger, the ball then ricochetting off the surprised Stevenson and agonisingly wide of the post from only a few yards out.
Hearts escaped in 53 minutes when a brilliant angled ball from Paul Cairney picked out Doyle, the ball falling just in front of the Hibs striker and at the right pace. The Irishman chased it and moved in on goal, but, with MacDonald spreading himself well, he set his effort high of the target.
Hearts had built up a bit of pressure on their opposite numbers, forcing three corners in the space of just a few minutes, but, try as they might, they just couldn’t turn their superior possession into a goal.
Hibs were then handed the perfect chance to win the match when Taouil brought Leigh Griffiths down in the danger area. Just a yard away from the box, the striker whipped it in and it came off the three-man wall for a corner. Griffiths again took the dead ball and this time it reached the head of Wotherspoon, but it went just inches over.
Hearts then almost snatched it themselves when Jason Holt raced through the middle and towards what looked to be an open goal, only for McGivern to somehow flick his heel in the air to take it wide.
As time ticked away, Hibs came close, but the Hearts defence stood strong, Dylan McGowan doing well to deny them what would almost certainly have been the winner before Barr’s chance went begging.