JUST when Hearts and Hibs were gaining the reputation of providing a soporific line in derbies, with no goals and precious little else to arouse interest in three previous meetings, the kind of behaviour that normally takes place under a full moon visited Edinburgh in daytime.
The final tally reads: one skirmish on the track before a ball was kicked; three goals; four bookings; one ordering off; and a proposed visit by the police to lecture one player in particular on the need to avoid provocative gestures in an inflamed atmosphere.
Hibs manager Alex Miller said afterwards that he had “been in the game 23 years and some of the things that went on out there appalled me”.
Coming from a man who spent 17 years as a Rangers player, immersed in the traditionally frenetic ways of the Old Firm’s rivalry, this may be taken as a suitably grave observation on this game’s happenings.
It would be inaccurate and unfair on Hibs to suggest that Hearts’ victory over Austria Vienna in the UEFA Cup had taken its toll of the Tynecastle club and was responsible for their defeat.
For all that the game was punctuated by various forms of indiscipline, it was a healthy reminder that Miller’s side would not be easily deflected from their intentions to remain among the Premier Division leaders, and to have done so with only ten men for 75 minutes after Gordon Rae was sent off only added to their satisfaction.
From Hibs’ point of view, there were a number of individual performances that could only be praised without reservation. The wisdom of investing heavily in Steve Archibald after his departure from Barcelona was not universally accepted at the time, but he secured the points with his eighth goal of the season and his ceaseless work, on and off the ball, entitled him to be thought of as the best man on the park.
It was Paul Kane’s headed goal from Alan Sneddon’s cross that established Hibs as the dominant side and the forbearance of Tommy McIntyre and Gordon Hunter in the absence of Rae that made sure they stayed that way, allowing John Collins and Kane to augment Archibald and Gareth Evans in attack. When good order prevailed it was not a bad match, either, though it would have been a substantial miscarriage of justice if Hears had taken the point they might have done in the closing moments.
Davie McPherson deserved his belated goal if only for being the one highly-accomplished home player but just when that appeared to be his personal consolation, Allan Moore almost got an equaliser. His final shot was hurried at with the wrong foot, though, and Hearts’ inconsistent progress continued.
Hibs: Goram, Sneddon, McIntyre, Milne, Rae, Hunter, Orr, Archibald, Kane, Collins, Evans.
Hearts: Smith, Kidd, Berry, McPherson, Whittaker, Jardine, Galloway, Mackay, Colquhoun, Black, Bannon.