Hearts 2, Hibs 1: Derby delight for Jambos

Sam Nicholson scores for Hearts with a fizzing shot
Sam Nicholson scores for Hearts with a fizzing shot
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Hearts maintained their perfect start to the Championship campaign after two goals in the last 20 minutes settled a tightly-contested first Edinburgh derby of the season.

Hibs spurned the chance to make the breakthrough in the first half when captain Liam Craig missed a penalty.

And the Easter Road side were made to pay in the closing quarter of the match as Sam Nicholson’s wonder goal and a Prince Buaben penalty, after Hibs’ Scott Robertson was sent off for bringing him down, put daylight between the teams.

Hearts were made to sweat when they had striker Osman Sow sent off just before Farid El Alagui pulled one back for Hibs in the last minute, but Robbie Neilson’s side held firm to go joint top of the table.

Hearts handed 20-year-old goalkeeper Jack Hamilton his competitive debut, with both Neil Alexander and Scott Gallacher missing out through injury. New recruit Lee Hollis took his place on the bench. Dale Carrick dropped out the squad through injury, with Jason Holt taking his place in support of striker Osman Sow.

Hibs were dealt a pre-match blow, with influential defender Paul Hanlon ruled out through injury, so Michael Nelson came in to take his place. Danny Handling returned from suspension and replaced Paul Heffernan.

Hearts had the first chance of the game after ten minutes but Danny Wilson headed over from Billy King’s corner.

Hibs almost took the lead in 19 minutes when Nelson glanced a Liam Craig free-kick inches beyond the far post.

The visitors had a golden chance to score when they were awarded a penalty in 31 minutes after Hamilton was adjudged to have brought Handling down as he burst through on goal. However, Craig drilled his low left-footed spot-kick wide of Hamilton’s left-hand post.

Hearts went desperately close in 38 minutes after Osman Sow knocked a Morgaro Gomis delivery down into Nicholson’s path but the teenager’s low shot from eight yards out was superbly blocked by Mark Oxley.

Chances were few and far between in the early part of the second half, with Hibs defender Jordon Forster seeing his tame, looping header easily held by Hamilton and Hearts centre-back Alim Ozturk slamming a free-kick into the defensive wall at the other end.

But Hearts finally made the breakthrough in 76 minutes when Nicholson fired home a 25-yard thunderbolt.

And three minutes later, the roof caved in for Hibs when Robertson hauled down Buaben in the box and was sent off for a second bookable offence. Buaben duly stepped up to fire home his first goal for Hearts from the penalty spot.

Hearts forward Sow was sent off two minutes later for catching Nelson with an elbow, and the home fans were given further cause for concern in the last minute when El Alagui rifled home a low shot from the edge of the box.

However, there was to be no dramatic fightback for the Easter Road side as the hosts held firm.

Hearts: Hamilton, McGhee, Wilson, Ozturk, McHattie, Buaben, Gomis, Nicholson (Keatings 84), Holt (Oliver 73), King (Walker 57), Sow. Subs: Hollis, D Smith, McKay, L Smith.

Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Nelson, Forster, Stevenson, Robertson, Craig, Harris, Handling (Allan 84), Stanton (Kennedy 78, El Alagui. Subs: Perntreou, Heffernan, Tudur Jones, Booth, Cummings.

Referee: Willie Collum