Dylan McGeouch believes Hibs and Dundee United fans are set to enjoy a cracking League Cup match tomorrow night – he just wishes he could be involved himself.
But rather than join his team-mates on the Easter Road turf, the midfielder will be among the supporters confined to cheering on Alan Stubbs’ side as they seek to take a second Premiership scalp and clinch a place in the semi-finals.
Sent off during the 2-0 victory against Ross County in the previous round, on-loan Celtic youngster McGeouch finds himself suspended for the visit of United.
However, he believes Hibs’ performance in the second Edinburgh derby of the season will have given the watching Tannadice management team of Jackie McNamara and Darren Jackson some food for thought.
Only an Alim Ozturk wonder goal – his injury-time strike later measured at inches short of 40 yards – robbed Hibs of the chance to become the first side to inflict a defeat on Hearts this season, the Easter Road outfit forced to settle for a 1-1 draw having taken a first-half lead through Dominique Malonga, which had looked enough to earn them all three points.
Despite that disappointment, though, man-of-the-match McGeouch insisted he and his team-mates could be proud of their performance, one which, along with their now six-game unbeaten run, has filled them full of confidence ahead of tomorrow night’s cup tie.
He said: “There’s a lot of tension in derby matches – a lot of pressure. But we just didn’t kick the ball into channels, we got it down and passed it, moved it and showed great energy levels. That’s what the manager wants to see and that’s what has been doing well for us.
“Hopefully the guys from United who were at the match went away with something to worry about because of the way we played. United are a great team, so we’re going to have two sides who want to get the ball down and play. It should be a great game.
“We’ve done well recently, we went to Dingwall and won against a Premiership side, we beat Rangers at Ibrox and now we’ve got to within two minutes of beating a Hearts team which has been doing so well this season. Hopefully we can put in another performance against United and get ourselves a place in the semis. I’m just gutted I can’t play after being sent off against Ross County, but there’s that belief among the boys that we can do it.”
Although Hearts had gone into Sunday’s match as firm favourites given their 14 point advantage over their Capital rivals, McGeouch believes Hibs have been “flying under the radar” in recent weeks with their own unbeaten run having gone relatively unnoticed.
While it contains four wins, McGeouch insisted that record should have been even more impressive, adamant games against Raith Rovers and Dumbarton at home should have produced a maximum six points rather than the two earned in disappointing draws. Even so, he claimed, there’s plenty of evidence pointing to steady progress under Stubbs.
He said: “We just need to keep believing in ourselves. We don’t just lump the ball forward. We try to get it down, create wee triangles and try to make things happen. That’s what it is all about and I’m enjoying my football playing this central role in midfield. It’s great to get on the ball, to get myself playing again and looking forward to games.
“We’ve been to Ross County and Ibrox and won. It’s taken the team that’s top of the league until the 92nd minute to draw with a wonder-shot, one you are just willing for him to hit from that range. To be fair to him, though, it was a good strike.”
Although he admitted Ozturk’s unlikely equaliser had left him and his team-mates deflated, McGeouch insisted heads won’t be down for long as Stubbs’ players recognised their performance against Hearts would have brought them a victory more often than not.
The 21-year-old said: “Losing a goal as we did in the last couple of minutes is obviously disappointing, but overall we can be proud of the way we played. I’d imagine a lot of people would have had Hearts as favourites going into the game because they’ve been doing really well, are top of the league, and have won a lot of games.
“People were predicting that they’d win comfortably, but we ignored that and just concentrated on ourselves. We had a belief and a confidence and I think we showed for most of the game that we were the better side. The fact it took them until the 92nd-minute to score with a goal like that showed how well we had done.”
As much as Hibs felt justice had eluded them, McGeouch was honest enough to admit Hearts had also contributed to a highly entertaining derby, saying: “I think both teams wanted to get the ball down and play rather than kick it to death. It made for great football and a game the fans must have enjoyed – although our supporters ended up disappointed.
“I felt it was a good game to be involved in.
“We had a few chances to put it to bed but, unfortunately, from our point of view, it was not to be. However, I thought we produced an outstanding team performance.
“Hearts have been flying, but I thought we did really well and dominated for most of the match.
“We’ve done well recently, but it’s unfortunate we’ve had these three draws at home from games we should have won. Six more points would have made things look a lot different. But we’ll keep our heads high, move on, seek to continue playing good football and we’ll see where that takes us as the season unfolds.”