HEARTS manager John McGlynn hailed his new-look back four for keeping a clean sheet in last night’s goalless draw against Hibs at Tynecastle – and singled out rookie centre-back Dylan McGowan after he cruised through his first Edinburgh derby.
The Tynecastle defence – already missing long-term injury victim Danny Grainger – lost another two members of a backline which not so long ago picked itself, with centre-back Andy Webster missing out with flu and right-back Ryan McGowan, Dylan’s brother, undergoing a medical in China as he puts the finishing touches to his £400,000 move to Shandong Luneng.
Darren Barr dropped back from midfield to right back, with McGowan, whose only first-team experience has come in midfield, deployed in his favoured position of centre-back.
Up against Leigh Griffiths, the 21-year-old Australian produced a commanding display, capped by a superb saving tackle to stop the SPL’s top scorer netting a rebound from close-range.
“I was delighted at the back four,” said McGlynn. “On the whole, they were solid.
“We had a defence playing together for the first time and, with the exception of Eoin Doyle’s chance where he went down the right, they kept the goal threat from Hibs very quiet.
“It was great for young Dylan to go in there and play alongside Marius Zaliukas. Marius talked him through the game and I thought he kept Griffiths very, very quiet.”
Asked if his defence is likely to have a similar look for the rest of the season – teenager Kevin McHattie continued at left-back – McGlynn, while alluding to the possibility of losing more players in this month’s transfer window, joked: “I don’t have a crystal ball.”
The manager couldn’t believe his side failed to secure victory last night after dominating large periods of the game and having a strong penalty claim waved away in the first half when Scott Robinson appeared to be caught late by James McPake in a passage of play that resulted in Andy Driver shooting wide. Hearts remain ninth in the SPL, albeit just nine points off second with a game in hand.
He continued: “It was another game where we merited the win and unfortunately it’s two points dropped. The number of games we could say that about, we should probably be up there beside Celtic. We controlled the game, had loads of the ball and passed the ball well. The corner kick count of 13-1 tells the story.
“Ryan Stevenson should have opened the scoring, John Sutton hit the bar with a header and Jason Holt rounded the keeper before the last defender cleared the ball, so I think we did enough to merit the victory.
“We might also have had a penalty. It was a similar situation to the Dundee derby with the same referee [Willie Collum] where a player was caught late, play went on and he pulled it back to give a penalty. He’s taken a different view on that this time, but I thought it was a penalty.”
Meanwhile, McGlynn faces an anxious wait to learn if Ryan Stevenson will face punishment for a rash tackle on James McPake late on the first half, which many felt merited a red card. Hibs defender Ryan McGivern branded it a “disgusting” tackle afterwards, but McGlynn hadn’t seen the incident again on replay.
He said: “The referee was in a good position, but four or five years ago I don’t think a challenge like that in a derby game would have been an issue.”