DERBY victories are treasured by managers, players and fans alike and this derby success for Hearts 11 years ago, was no different.
Given the circumstances surrounding the first Capital showdown of the season, the win at Tynecastle had to rank as the most vital over the Easter Road side in nearly four years under Craig Levein.
Going into this meeting three points adrift of Tony Mowbray’s in-form side, who had gone eight games undefeated, Levein knew that victory was imperative. To go six points behind Hibs and languish in eighth place in the SPL amid an arduous Uefa Cup campaign was not a palatable thought. The fact his players won it at the end of a most gruelling eight days which had seen Celtic coast to a 3-0 win at Parkhead, then Dutch giants Feyenoord chalk up an equally comfortable margin of victory in the Uefa Cup in Rotterdam, was all the more impressive.
With the adrenaline pumping at kick-off, the hosts began much the brighter and deservedly broke the deadlock through Patrick Kisnorbo’s first league goal for the club after 15 minutes. The Aussie internationalist found himself in acres of space just inside the box and he smashed home a fisted clearance by visiting keeper Simon Brown after a superb sweeping move down the right involving Robbie Neilson, Phil Stamp, Joe Hamill and Kevin McKenna. The first goal in such games is vital and the visitors struggled to break down the formidable backline which had served Hearts so well in this era.
However, Andy Webster, who was otherwise a tower of strength alongside Steven Pressley, almost gifted Hibs an equaliser with a rare error after 54 minutes, the defender heading a ball straight into the path of Dean Shiels, whose lob over the advancing Craig Gordon landed on the roof of the net when he should’ve done better.
McKenna should have doubled his side’s advantage in the 67th minute when Hamill’s cross found him unmarked at the back post. The gangly Canadian, though, only succeeded in heading the ball into the side netting when knocking it back across goal would surely have brought better reward.
Ramon Pereira made a surprise entrance from the bench with 15 minutes remaining – and promptly helped win the game for Hearts. The Spaniard, who had been struggling to shake off an ankle injury, had been on the park for 60 seconds when, after some delicate trickery on the byline, he picked out youngster Hamill in the area and the winger steered the ball past Brown with the outside of his left boot.
With the Jambos running on empty in the closing stages, Hibs snatched a 90th-minute consolation courtesy of a stunning strike from Derek Riordan.
Levien quit five days later to become manger of Leicester City.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Maybury, Webster, Pressley, Stamp, Kisnorbo, Hartley, Hamill, McKenna, Weir.
Hibs: Brown, Whittaker, Murphy, Caldwell, Murray, Fletcher, Glass, Beuzelin, Shields, O’Connor, Riordan.