IF Mark de Vries had been concerned about winning over the Hearts fans, he could rest easy following his sensational four-goal haul in his first derby.
The 6ft 4in Dutchman was an instant hero as he terrorised the Hibs defence from the first whistle and wrote himself into the history books. Finding the target once in a derby can endear a player to the fans, but four goals in a 5-1 rout meant De Vries could expect the freedom of Gorgie.
He became the first Hearts player to score a hat-trick or more in the Premier League against Hibs and the first to score four times on his full debut.
The towering frontman benefited from excellent service from the flanks, with Steven Boyack, Alan Maybury and the impressive Jean-Louis Valois supplying plenty of ammunition.
The goal which set the hosts on their way to a famous triumph arrived via the route-one method. Antti Niemi’s long clearance was missed by both De Vries and Gary Smith and Andy Kirk was on to the ball in a flash before keeping his cool to lob Tony Caig with 18 minutes on the clock.
Frenchman Valois was in irresistible form on the left as he became the catalyst for much of the Jambos’ forward play. He and De Vries combined superbly for Hearts’ second, not long after Scott Severin had seen a header hit the bar.
Valois gathered possession on the left, then cut inside before flicking a great ball over the Hibees defence, and there was De Vries to chest it down and smash home his first goal.
Caig kept his side in the match two minutes later when he saved at full stretch from the Dutchman and, six minutes after the break, the visitors halved the deficit. Ian Murray charged in to head home a cross by Grant Brebner, the midfielder having come off the bench early in the first period after his skipper John O’Neil suffered a shoulder injury.
De Vries restored his side’s two-goal lead when he stroked home No. 3 after Caig had done well to block Valois’ drive.
De Vries had been struggling with cramp in both calf muscles during the second half but still had enough running left to blast two more goals in injury time. His hat-trick arrived in the 90th minute when Paul McMullan picked him out in the box and the striker stepped inside Mark Dempsie before lifting the ball over the advancing Caig.
That sent the home fans wild with joy and, just when they thought things couldn’t get any better, he did it again. Gary Wales crossed to the back post where De Vries rose to head the ball back across Caig and into the far corner of his net.