After Sunday’s frenetic Hearts-Hibs derby, Anthony Brown picks out five key points from Tynecastle.
The Edinburgh derby is a fixture to cherish
AFTER a ten-month absence, we were reminded that, for anyone who cares for Hearts or Hibs, there is no occasion like Edinburgh derby day – when some fans start the party as early as 7am – to get the juices flowing. It may, more often than not, turn out to be short on quality but this is mainly down to the mutual desire of both teams not to succumb to each other. What it usually lacks in swashbuckling football, however, is more than made up for by noise and drama. There are those who sneer at the absence of pure football when these two great rivals collide, but they still come back for more because it is such a riveting showdown. Even the contrasting colours of the two teams – maroon against green – help add to the spectacle. Late goals have been something of a trademark of the fixture over the years, although, unlike on Sunday, they have tended to come from Hearts. Paul Hanlon’s stoppage-time equaliser, which will be remembered fondly by Hibs fans for years to come, has provided us with another instalment of the Edinburgh derby to look forward to on Tuesday week.
Hearts need a new talisman to step up in place of Osman Sow
THE absence of the China-bound striker looked pretty glaring yesterday as Hearts’ attack struggled to get any change out of Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor. There is no guarantee that Sow would have made a significant difference had he played, but the Swede has undoubtedly been their best attacker this season and his inspirational presence and ability to conjure opportunities for himself from nothing was missed. Abiola Dauda was kept fairly quiet on his debut although he should be cut plenty slack given that making an impact in such a notoriously frenetic derby was always going to be a tall order in his first match on these shores. Gavin Reilly and Juanma Delgado, who was again left kicking his heels on the bench on Sunday, are still to truly ignite since joining Hearts in the summer. The hope for Hearts will be that Dauda finds his feet quickly and that Juanma can rediscover the blistering form he showed in the first few weeks of the campaign. Until either of those things happen, they will be heavily reliant on Arnaud Djoum, who looks primed to become Hearts’ main man in Sow’s absence, to keep driving the team forward from midfield.
Hibs must get Paul Hanlon tied up on a new contract
THE defender is out of contract this summer and is currently free to sign for anyone else on a pre-contract. His value to Hibs, if in any doubt, was underlined by yet another impressive performance and another vital goal for his team yesterday. As a boyhood Hibs fan who is content at the club, there is no reason to suspect that Hanlon will be eagerly seeking a move away from Easter Road. Nonetheless, having grown in physical stature and matured into a high-calibre centre-back with more than 250 first-team games under his belt at just 26 years old, he is ready-made for a move to the English Championship. Hibs should act promptly to make sure they don’t lose their best defender.
Hearts have lost their derby swagger since 5-1
HEARTS are now on a four-game run without a derby win, which, given their proud history in the fixture, amounts to something of a drought. They have won five of the 15 derbies since the 2012 Scottish Cup final, although four of those came under Gary Locke in the 2013/14 season when both teams were on their way towards being relegated. With the possible exception of the last two games of that campaign – 2-0 at Tynecastle and 2-1 at Easter Road – Hearts have struggled to genuinely impose themselves on their city rivals ever since Paulo Sergio’s team ripped Pat Fenlon’s side apart at Hampden nearly four years ago. Since the start of last season, it could be argued that Hearts have played second fiddle to their rivals on derby day. Much of this, of course, is down to Hibs’ improvement under Alan Stubbs, a man who has clearly removed the fear factor at the Easter Road club. Regardless of circumstances, however, Hearts fans will never be satisfied at the sight of their rivals holding their own against them over a prolonged period and will be expecting a much more aggressive performance and, more importantly, victory in next week’s replay.
Marvin Bartley has suddenly become a key man for Hibs
PRIOR to yesterday, the Englishman had started only 13 of his side’s 29 matches this season and seemed to be viewed as a back-up player wheeled in whenever Alan Stubbs decided to rotate his team. However, the injury sustained by the on-form Fraser Fyvie at Morton last week meant Bartley, who probably wouldn’t have started otherwise, was thrust into the heart of the Edinburgh derby battle. If Hibs fans had any doubts about his ability to deal with such a high-octane fixture, they were emphatically banished by a man-of-the-match performance from the big holding midfielder. The 29-year-old is now likely to be heavily relied upon with Fyvie out for the next month, while the possible absence of Dylan McGeouch would put further strain on Hibs’ midfield. Stubbs can rest assured that, in Bartley, he has a reliable and imposing presence to help steer the team through a demanding and critical period of the season.