Hibee History: Fletch ends wait for derby win

Steven Fletcher scored with a header that looped over Janos Balogh in the Hearts goal
Steven Fletcher scored with a header that looped over Janos Balogh in the Hearts goal
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Steven Fletcher’s goal ended Hibs’ two-year wait for an Edinburgh derby victory as both sides finished with then men.

The result ended a run of five derbies without defeat for Hearts and Mixu Paatelainen’s first win against their rivals as Hibs boss meant his side narrowed the gap on third-placed Jam Tarts to nine points.

Hibs captain Rob Jones had made a recovery from injury to replace Darren McCormack, who collided with advertising hoardings during their previous match away to Hamilton.

The re-formed Hibs defence was immediately under pressure, with visiting midfielder Michael Stewart deflecting a low Andrew Driver cross just wide of the front post.

The home side responded in great style and striker Derek Riordan was inches away from the opener when his 25-yard drive cannoned off the angle of post and bar.

Hibs supporters didn’t have to wait long for the opener, however. They took the lead after 14 minutes, when Fletcher’s attempt to head an Alan O’Brien cross came off his shoulder, looped over keeper Janos Balogh and in off the underside of the crossbar.

Hearts squandered a great chance to equalise when Christian Nade, who had been chosen ahead of Adrian Mrowiec up front, intercepted Sol Bamba’s slack back-pass, but was unconvincing in his attempt to round Grzegorz Szamotulski and had his effort blocked by the goalkeeper.

The visitors suffered another blow after 25 minutes when Driver, who had been giving Bamba a torrid time down the Hibs’ right, had to go off injured and was replaced with Saulius Mikoliunas.

Hearts had the chance to equalise once more, but Nade was again guilty of being tentative in front of goal, this time finding his close-range effort blocked by Jones after being set up by Lee Wallace.

The Jambos looked to be dead and buried when Balogh was sent off for chopping down Fletcher after the striker was sent clear by Colin Nish just before the interval. Jamie MacDonald was sent on to take his place in goal, with Bruno Aguiar the outfield sacrifice.

Hibs didn’t have a man advantage for long however, as Bamba was also given an early bath on the stroke of half-time when he took down Nade as the French striker rampaged towards goal.

There was still time before the break for Stewart to force Szamotulski into a fine one-handed save from the midfielder’s powerful 20-yard drive, which was diverted on to the far post.

Paatelainen replaced striker Nish with defender David van Zanten for a second half that began in a more leisurely fashion.

Both sides took time to settle after an action-packed first-halh, but soon the 20 remaining players began to exploit the extra space and Stewart again forced Szamotulski into a couple of saves from long range.

MacDonald had looked nervous as Hibs pumped crosses into the box without much real poise, but the stand-in goalkeeper did superbly to deny Fletcher’s attempt to curl the ball home from 15 yards, turning it wide after the striker was put clear on goal.

A looping header from Nade came off the crossbar five minutes from the final whistle as Hibs survived later pressure to secure victory.

Hibs: Szamotulski, Bamba, Hogg, Jones, Stevenson, Rankin, Rosa, O’Brien, Fletcher, Riordan, Nish.

Hearts: Balogh, Neilson, Karipidis, Jonsson, Wallace, Obua, Stewart, Palazuelos, Driver, Aguiar, Nade.