Alex Cochrane says fans must stop throwing objects at players as Hibs prepare to host Hearts in the Scottish Cup

Chips and other items rained down on Alex Cochrane from Easter Road’s North Stand during Hearts’ last visit there. His team-mate, Zander Clark, was cut on the head by an object thrown from the away support during the New Year Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle. It is an unseemly sight in an otherwise compelling fixture.

Cochrane today appealed for common sense as Hearts and Hibs prepare to meet again in Leith, this time in the Scottish Cup fourth round. There is no room for error in a winner-takes-all knockout tie but fans are being encouraged to behave sensibly amid high stakes.

Hibs supporters pelted the young Englishman during August’s 1-1 Premiership draw and did likewise with Clark earlier this month as Hearts won 3-0. Many Hibs followers on social media condemned the actions of a senseless minority within their fanbase and it must be hoped their words were heeded. Although such experiences steeled Cochrane, perhaps even fired him up to a degree, he has no wish for a repeat on Sunday.

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“You don’t want to see that. It happened to Zander the other week and you don’t want to see that in the game,” said the defender. “Hopefully it gets cut out and nothing similar happens on Sunday. You know what it’s like in a derby, you are going to get stick and abuse. Hopefully we don’t see that again, though. It’s always nice to keep them quiet. They do like to give you some stick so hopefully at the weekend we can keep them quiet and get the victory.”

Cochrane spent last season on loan at Hearts from Brighton and Hove Albion before moving north permanently. Regarded as one of the most reliable and talented defenders in the Premiership, he is preparing for his seventh Edinburgh derby having yet to lose one. The previous six taught him enough of what to expect, so Easter Road should not hold too many surprises.

“You have more Hibs fans there so you’ve got more people giving you stick and abuse. You need to just block that out and focus on the game,” he said. “The saying is that you need to play the game and not the occasion. We know what we have to do and what to expect from them. I feel I gained a lot of experience last season and this season has helped me a lot. I think I’ve improved but there is still a long way to go. I’ve still got stuff to learn.”

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Heading across town with an eight-game unbeaten run, Hearts must guard against any hint of complacency. Hibs have amassed three wins and a draw from their last 13 matches and are struggling to build any kind of momentum under manager Lee Johnson. They know the value attached to derby success, particularly in a national cup competition. The 3-0 Premiership reverse at Tynecastle on January 2 will still be fresh in their minds.

“It’s a big one for the fans. We had a good result against Hibs a couple of weeks ago but they will probably be looking for revenge,” Cochrane pointed out. “It's down to us to put on a performance. Hibs will be fired up and we know they will want revenge. We have to be right at it. I’ve played at Easter Road a few times now and it’s always a feisty affair, but it’s one I’m looking forward to.

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Alex Cochrane of Hearts is hit by objects from the home support at Easter Road in August.

“We are unbeaten in eight games and we’ve been on a good run since the World Cup break. We are in a good place, feeling confident, and we go again on Sunday in a massive game. Form tends to go out the window in these games so we can’t get too carried away, thinking we just go down there and win. We know it will be 100 miles an hour from start to finish and it will be tough.”

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The most recent entry in that unbeaten sequence came on Wednesday evening as Gorgie rejoiced in a 5-0 demolition of Aberdeen. Hearts displayed a ruthless intent in the final third which will be rather useful if replicated at Easter Road. From six shots on target, they scored five and struck a post with the other. Josh Ginnelly scored twice, Michael Smith etched his name on the scoresheet, Lawrence Shankland converted a penalty and Cammy Devlin celebrated his first goal at Tynecastle.

Whilst chuffed with the remorseless attacking, Cochrane was even more pleased at recording a third clean sheet in four games. The Aberdeen substitute Marley Watkins thought he had struck a consolation goal in stoppage-time before VAR intervened with an offside decision.

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“You heard the cheer from the crowd when VAR chalked Aberdeen’s goal off. It was a relief for us because, as defenders, we pride ourselves on clean sheets,” said Cochrane. “We know Aberdeen have quality but we managed to keep their threat quiet and the boys were clinical up top. It was a good night for us but we need to focus on the weekend now because we have a big game at Easter Road.”

One which, potentially, could set Hearts on the road to another showpiece occasion. They have reached three of the last four Scottish Cup finals without managing to lift the trophy. Silverware remains something of a holy grail for any club outwith Celtic and Rangers.

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“We got to the final last year so we’re looking to go one step further,” admitted Cochrane. “That has always been an aim for us. Last year was an experience and we didn’t quite manage to pull it off. Now we want to go one better and that starts this weekend. Every player wants to win a trophy, all the lads in the dressing room feel the same. It’s something to look back on fondly at the end of your career.”