Hibs took over the leadership of the First Division on goal difference from Celtic after humiliating of Hearts at Tynecastle – the widest victory margin between the teams for more than 50 years.
Hearts, who had conceded only three goals in 13-and-a-half hours of league games at home, lost three in 26 minutes here and trailed by five at half-time. Indeed, only three excellent saves by goalkeeper Kenny Garland from Pat Stanton, Alan Gordon and Jimmy O’Rourke prevented this first match of the year from being a double-figure tale of woe.
Hearts contributed to their predicament through some slack defensive work, but Hibs’ teamwork, pace and understanding left the hosts, uncharitably, without any hope.
Jim Brown was the one Hearts player who tried to compete with Hibs at their skilful level but he couldn’t raise much response around him.
It might have been closer if either Tommy Murray or Donald Park had scored in the first five minutes before Hibs began to display their devastating striking power.
Alex Cropley was a stand-out in midfield for Hibs and certainly Gordon was the best centre-forward in Scotland at the time. But they all dovetailed so successfully and O’Rourke, Gordon and Arthur Duncan, who had a double apiece, had collected the staggering total of 80 goals that season. Both backs played impressively and Stanton came on to a powerful game to provide the right backing for the marksmen.
At half-time, Hearts introduced Andy Lynch for Eric Carruthers, but you couldn’t look for much improvement from a team that was totally demoralised at that stage.
The rout began in nine minutes with a huge throw-in from Erich Schaedler on the left. Alan Anderson and Eddie Thomson were busy watching Gordon and the ball bounced beyond them all to O’Rourke, who left-footed a high shot into the net.
A superb Alex Edwards pass gave Alan Gordon the second goal in 16 minutes. The centre forward slipped as he chested the ball down but regained his balance to poke a right footer past Garland.
Edwards missed a chance in front of goal – and then Arthur Duncan made it three with a trundling shot in 26 minutes after Cropley had nodded a David Clunie clearance into the winger’s path. As a contest, it was all over, but Hibs made it an exhibition with their precision football. Anderson stretched for a Duncan centre in 35 minutes and Cropley volleyed a glorious left-footer past Garland from more than 20 yards. Two minutes later a Cropley cross and a Duncan header signalled Hibs’ 50th league goal.
Jim Herriot stopped an angled drive from Donald Ford at the start of the second half and soon Hibs were slicing through the Tynecastle defence again.
A magnificent run by Stanton was worth a goal since he outstripped the entire home defence. But it was O’Rourke who slid the ball home to establish himself as No.1 goalscorer in the country. That was in 56 minutes and the final goal didn’t arrive until the 75th minute, Duncan squared the ball to Gordon whose well-timed header went in off the post.
Hearts were left blitzed and bewildered by a Hibs team that Eddie Turnbull had moulded quite spectacularly in the space of 18 months.
Hibs: Herriot, Brownlie, Schaedler, Stanton, Black, Blackley, Edwards, O’Rourke, Gordon, Cropley, Duncan.
Hearts: Garland, Clunie, Jeffries, Thomson, Anderson, Wood, Park, Brown, Ford, Carruthers, Murray.