Hearts boss frustrated but glad to learn about derby demands

Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano blocks Bjorn Johnsen's effort. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano blocks Bjorn Johnsen's effort. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Frustration reigned for Hearts after a frenetic Scottish Cup Edinburgh derby. While the uneven Tynecastle pitch was heavily criticised during the 0-0 fifth-round draw, head coach Ian Cathro was at least happy his team stood up to intense scrutiny.

For the first time in living memory, Hibs visited Tynecastle as Scottish Cup holders after ending their 114-year wait for the trophy last May. They held on to it with a deserved draw and a replay at Easter Road on Wednesday, February 22. The winner of that match will then face either Ayr United or Clyde in the quarter-finals.

It is a repeat of last year when Hibs eliminated Hearts after a replay in Leith on their way to winning the trophy. Cathro felt a rematch wouldn’t have been necessary if his players had produced more in the final third of the pitch, although they were definitely hindered by the bobbly surface. Cathro entered the media room at full-time looking rather exasperated but maintained his familiar calm outward manner.

There were precious few scoring chances in one of the most uneventful Capital derbies in recent memory. Hibs, though, will retreat to the other side of the city feeling relatively confident after stretching their unbeaten run against Hearts to six games. They certainly didn’t look like a club from a lower division in front of a packed Tynecastle yesterday.

The positives for Hearts are a second consecutive clean sheet and a sense that, despite recruiting an entire new back four during the January transfer window, they look a more solid unit.

“A draw is possibly accurate,” admitted Cathro. “It’s a derby – lots of breaks, stoppages, fouls, and the game fails to come to life. That’s frustrating from our side. We could’ve played better. Was it balanced? Maybe. The game broke up all the time. There were small fouls and the atmosphere and sense of what the derby is – we needed to play past that a bit better.

“The pitch is difficult but it’s our pitch and it’s not something we want to focus too much on. You’ve got to manage conditions so we won’t make that a talking point. I’m someone who loves football. I think we could’ve played more of it. The most pleasing factor is that we saw a strong team dealing with that frustration and staying focused. We were comfortable defending what we had to defend.”

It was Cathro’s first experience of the Edinburgh derby and his first dealings with Hibs. He now feels better informed for the replay. “One of the positives is we’ve lived through this game and we know more. We’ll be well prepared when the next game comes round and we’ll look forward to it. We have our frustrations from not being able to do what we wanted to yesterday.”

He wasn’t the only one new to the Hearts-Hibs rivalry. The overhaul in Gorgie in the last 12 months has been extensive. Only three home players featured when these two teams met at the same stage of the same competition last year – Don Cowie, Jamie Walker and Sam Nicholson. In total, Hearts started seven Edinburgh derby debutants yesterday. Hibs, by contrast, have had a far more settled squad during the last year and arrived as SPFL Championship leaders, as well as cup holders.

Foundation of Hearts chairman Stuart Wallace presented Hearts owner Ann Budge with a cheque for £1 million on the pitch before kick-off. That represented the FoH contribution to Tynecastle’s new £12m main stand. Indeed, all three stands occupied by home supporters rose as one just two minutes in when Esmael Goncalves sprinted on to Lennard Sowah’s through ball, but Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano blocked the Portuguese striker’s shot. The opening half hour was full of uncompromising challenges, several of them late, which tested the patience of referee Willie Collum. Play regularly stopped for infringements and that meant precious few chances in either penalty area. It took until the 44th minute for another genuine opening to arrive, and it was Hibs who created it.

The hulking figure of Grant Holt stepped through three opponents 25 yards from goal and passed to Jason Cummings in space on the right of the penalty area. The young Scot’s left-footed attempt was smothered by Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton at the second attempt. Both managers seemed to decide at the interval that the pitch dictated longer balls were necessary.

Cathro introduced Bjorn Johnsen for Malaury Martin at half-time and his team instantly went on the offensive at the start of the second period. The American had an effort saved by Marciano and Darren McGregor bravely threw his body in front of Walker’s follow-up volley. Hibs then began asserting themselves more in response. They dropped a number of loping balls in behind the home defence, and one found Fraser Fyvie for a low cross which Andraz Struna cleared to safety.

The visitors came close again on 76 minutes from another long pass. Cummings scarpered on to James Keatings’ ball and held up play before supplying a low delivery towards the back post. Holt was charging in at full speed but couldn’t slide in early enough to direct the ball on target. As the final ten minutes approached, it was Hibs who looked the more likely scorers.

However, the final whistle sounded on a goalless and fairly uneventful Edinburgh derby. Which means another one at Easter Road on Wednesday week.