Scott ROBERTSON spent eight-and-a-half years playing for both clubs in his home town of Dundee but enjoyed barely a minute of derby day action, City of Discovery-style.
Now, having completed the entire 90 minutes of his first Edinburgh derby the Scotland midfielder hopes he doesn’t have to endure another in the forseeable future – not because he didn’t relish every second of the encounter with Hearts, it’s simply the knowledge that avoiding another match with the Jambos this season will mean Pat Fenlon’s side have achieved their target of a top-six finish.
However, that goal remains very much in the balance following the failure of referee Euan Norris and his assistant Raymond Whyte to spot Leigh Griffiths’ sensational free-kick had crossed the line, his strike having left Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, in his own words, “clutching fresh air”.
It was the second time in a matter of weeks Hibs were left nursing a sense of injustice, convinced another refereeing gaffe, Alan Muir’s decision to award Robertson’s old club Dundee United a late spot-kick despite Ryan McGivern’s trip on Gary Mackay-Steven clearly taking place outside the penalty area. And that ruling allowed Johnny Russell to claim an unlikely equaliser for the Arabs.
Those blunders, Hibs contend, have cost Fenlon’s players four precious points, leaving their quest for top-six football on a knife-edge with United, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen breathing down their necks.
Like virtually everyone else inside Easter Road, Robertson was incredulous that the officials had denied Griffiths what would have been his 23rd goal of a remarkable season and robbed Hibs of a first SPL win over their arch-rivals in almost four years.
The 27-year-old said: “I had a good view of it. I think I was the closest player to the linesman and I saw it go over the line. I spoke to him after the match and he said he did not think he was in a position to see but I could see from where I was.”
One possible explanation might be that Norris and Whyte were simply caught out by Griffiths’ audacity in going for goal from fully 35 yards, Robertson himself admitting he didn’t expect it. He said: “I don’t know who the Hearts player was marking me but when I saw Leigh lining it up I said to him ‘surely he’s not going to shoot from there’. He does and it’s a goal but it wasn’t given.
“I don’t know if he [Whyte] was looking at the ball or for offside but it was disappointing. It would have given us two extra points which would have been a massive step to getting the top six place we so desperately want.”
Add on the two points Hibs believe they were denied at Tannadice and the implications both in terms of where Fenlon’s players end the season and the tens of thousands of pounds at stake in bonus money are clear. Robertson said: “Four points would have made a huge difference when it is so tight. We’d have been five points in front of Dundee United with three games to play. It wouldn’t have been an insurmountable gap, but we would have had a little bit of breathing space.
“Now we have three difficult games, away to Motherwell, at home to Inverness Caley and away to Celtic so we have to try to get as many points as we can from them.”
The derby-day stalemate was Hibs’ third successive SPL draw, making those mistakes by officials all the more frustrating for Fenlon’s players. Robertson said: “We felt we deserved the win at Tannadice, against Kilmarnock we thought we did well enough to win but ended up scraping a draw, and again on Sunday there was that big call.”
If the draw did little for Hibs, it all but ended Hearts’ hopes of making a late dash for a spot in the top six. The Gorgie side now lie six points adrift of their Capital rivals who occupy sixth place with only two games to play and with goal difference hugely against them.
Robertson said: “As far as Hearts are concerned, mathematically it is still possible but it’s going to be really difficult for them. However, we aren’t worried about them, we want to finish top six which would be a big improvement on last season and a step in the right direction towards where we want to be.
“I really enjoyed my first Edinburgh derby, although not so much from the football side of things. It was a hectic affair, not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It was scrappy, a bit of a battle which you expect from a derby and not too much football played in what were difficult conditions.
“Hopefully it will be the first of many for me and the football will be better.”
Although he played 121 matches for Dundee – the team he supported as a boy – and 125 more for United, Robertson got the briefest of tastes of the Dundee derby, the final minute for the Dark Blues in a 2-2 draw at Tannadice in January 2005.
He said: “Growing up in Dundee it was every kid’s dream to play in a derby for your team. I had all that time with Dundee and then United and it was a shame I never really got to do that.”
Robertson appreciates the irony of having made a move to Blackpool last summer just as Dundee found themselves catapulted into the SPL thanks to Rangers’ demise. The two clubs which are famously separated by no more than the width of a street have already met three times this season with another encounter looming this weekend.
He said: “There hadn’t been a derby in Dundee for seven or eight years and during that time I was with both clubs. Now, all of a sudden, there’s been all these games.
“You never know what is going to happen in football, I signed a two-year deal with Blackpool but was only there six months.
“I’ve signed a two-and-a-half year contract with Hibs and I’d like to think I will see that out and, hopefully, play in many more Edinburgh derbies.
“I’d been looking forward to that first one as I have been every game since I came to Hibs.
“Six months without football makes me appreciate how much I enjoy playing.
“I’ve come here, the manager has shown faith in me although it’s been difficult because of match fitness and sharpness. But I’ve got a manager who appreciates me and I’m enjoying my football again.”