It had been a long time since Hearts had given their supporters such a happy New Year. From goalkeeper to outside left there wasn’t a weak link in this Hearts set-up.
Their defensive plan to outwit the high-scoring Hibs forward line operated with a silky smoothness and did not detract from their power and tenacity in attack. It was a win conceived on the inimitable Tynecastle blueprint and carried out by high-grade craftsmen.
A fluid defence, in front of a confident keeper, never allowed itself to get flustered as the great John Cumming and a tenacious Andy Bowman set about establishing a midfield grip, while a devastating attack continued to terrorise the Hibs defence. In the end, Hearts were well worth their 5-1 success.
With every man in defence playing his part, Jimmy Milne did not have a worrying afternoon against Joe Baker, although the Hibs youngster was considerably slowed up by one or two tough tackles in the opening stages.
The man who came in for the first toast of the new year was Cumming.
He urged Hearts on to victory with a tremendous attacking spell at the start of the second half when he had Jacky Wren hopping around Hibs’ goal to thwart three tremendous shots.
And there was a toast to Alex Young – brilliant at inside right with three goals to his credit.
Also a toast for Gordon Smith, who came on to a grand game and sealed his first New Year’s Day outing for the “other side” with a fine goal.
Hibs, their weakness in goal underlined, their shakiness at full back exploited to the full and their lack of pace on the left wing painfully apparent, had but one big success – Jackie Plenderleith although had the misfortune to put through his own goal.
Hearts, tough and tenacious to the tackle, yards faster to the ball than Hibs, were ahead in seven minutes. Young popped the ball home after Wren had failed to reach a header by Willie Bauld and it came back off the post.
Hibs were denied a penalty when Baker was brought down by Thomson in the tenth minute and then lost a goal in the 17th when Young harassed Plenderleith into heading past his own keeper.
Baker and Johnstone came close, and Baker struck the upright. In the 53rd minute, Young, after Wren had pushed out a Bauld shot scored Hearts’ third. But when Johnstone headed home a free-kick it looked as if Hibs might storm back. Young ended that hope with the goal of the match within a minute. His veering run and cracking shot gave Wren no chance. In the 73rd minute, Hibs legend Smith rubbed it in.
The Jam Tarts went on to clinch the championship by four points from Kilmarnock.
Hibs: Wren, Grant, McClelland, J Young, Plenderleith, Baxter, McLeod, Johnstone, Baker, Preston, Ormond.
Hearts: Marshall, Kirk, Thomson, Cumming, Milne, Bowman, Smith, A Young, Bauld, Blackwood, Hamilton.