Hearts prove derby dominance over Hibs with scoring record equalled as Robbie Neilson gets first Easter Road win

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If you’re going to equal a long-standing John Robertson goalscoring record, the Edinburgh derby is the perfect occasion. It’s almost like Lawrence Shankland planned it this way all along. Although a late red card was certainly not part of his script.

The Hearts striker scored for the 20th time in all competitions this season to put his team 2-0 ahead against Hibs with 17 minutes remaining of a pulsating Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road. Josh Ginnelly’s first-half goal had given the visitors an important advantage which they simply refused to relinquish despite some spells of concerted home pressure. A stoppage-time solo effort from Toby Sibbick was merely the icing on the cup cake.

Shankland, who only arrived at Tynecastle Park from the Belgian club Beerschot last summer, now etches his name in club folklore as the first Hearts player since 1991/92 to bulge the net 20 times. Robertson spent his career punishing Hibs with 27 derby goals and the significance of such a landmark strike in this fixture was not lost on Shankland.

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This controlled Hearts display was once again characterised by decisive finishing when necessary as they secured a place in the fifth round. The result also extended their unbeaten run of games against Hibs to nine. The 3,800-strong Jambos in the away end celebrated with chants of “here we go for ten in a row” at full-time. Manager Robbie Neilson, watching from the stand, could finally enjoy his first ever victory at Easter Road.

Edinburgh derbies always generate a certain vibe of anticipation around the city and cup ties between the two clubs merely crank that up. Hearts hadn’t lost in eight fixtures against Hibs and beat them 3-0 at Tynecastle Park just three weeks ago. They were also unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions dating back to November.

Hibs’ recent form had been notably less convincing. They kicked off on the back of just three victories in their last 13 matches, hence a number of empty seats in the home end at Easter Road. However, new signing James Jeggo was cleared to play in time and took his place in midfield opposite his Australian international colleague Cammy Devlin.

Neilson watched from the stand whilst serving the first of two one-game touchline bans which will run back-to-back. He would have been concerned by the opening minutes as Hibs made a forceful start. They struck the post when Josh Campbell flicked Aiden McGeady’s cross goalwards with his back foot. When the visitors’ first opportunity arrived, they seized it mercilessly.

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Robert Snodgrass’ curling free-kick from the right was only partially headed out by Kevin Nisbet towards Ginnelly. Having won the initial foul, the Englishman didn’t hesitate to rifle the ball through a posse of bodies and low into the net beyond Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall. Advantage Hearts inside ten minutes.

Lawrence Shankland celebrates putting Hearts 2-0 up at Easter Road.Lawrence Shankland celebrates putting Hearts 2-0 up at Easter Road.
Lawrence Shankland celebrates putting Hearts 2-0 up at Easter Road.

Hibs needed a response with manager Lee Johnson already under pressure before this encounter. McGeady stung the palms of visiting goalkeeper Zander Clark. Pressure from the hosts’ attack saw both Kye Rowles and James Hill dispossessed as the maroon defence dithered in their own half. Another run and cross from McGeady ended with Josh Campbell heading wide after Clark misjudged the flight of the ball.

This was developing into the proverbial open and gripping cup tie. Marshall’s save prevented Michael Smith putting Hearts 2-0 ahead before Hill blocked a Chris Cadden’s netbound drive. In truth, both defences looked fragile and nervous under pressure. Hibs finished the first half pressing forward more than their rivals without managing to cancel out the one-goal deficit.

The obvious issue Hearts had was ball retention under pressure as their midfield were denied space by Campbell, Jeggo and Lewis Stevenson. Snodgrass hadn’t influenced play much in the first half and the second 45 minutes began in similar fashion. Hibs’ principal danger came from wingers McGeady and Elie Youan.

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Clark had to repel shots from Ryan Porteous and Cadden before a 61st-minute round of applause broke out in honour of Hibs fan Iain Matthews, who sadly passed away recently. Then came the goal which put Hearts firmly in command and their Edinburgh neighbours out of the Scottish Cup.

Shankland meandered his way in from the left side and entered the penalty box to play a one-two with substitute Stephen Humphrys. The striker took the return and waited for space before driving an unstoppable shot past Marshall. If there was a way to equal Robertson’s record, an emphatic strike in a derby was just that. The away end exploded in the knowledge that a 2-0 lead was effectively unassailable with little over 15 minutes remaining. Some Hibs fans began heading for the exits, whilst one travelling supporter ran onto the pitch in a fit of euphoria.

A late and determined run by Sibbick almost produced a third goal on 89 minutes, Marshall diving smartly to his right to push the ball away. Shankland almost prodded the rebound home. He, of course, was no looking to beat Robertson’s record having drawn parity. Instead, he took a walk up the tunnel earlier than anyone else after a second yellow card.

He was booked for an altercation with Rocky Bushiri earlier in the game and then received a second caution and a dismissal for bundling the same player to the ground in stoppage-time. Youan lashed a late shot off Clark’s right post before the final maroon flourish.

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Sibbick broke from defence at full speed and raced on to Humphrys’ weighted pass. His speed took him through on Marshall and the defender finished like a seasoned centre-forward to wrap the up the tie at 3-0.

Hibs (4-2-3-1): Marshall; Cadden, Bushiri (Hanlon 90), Porteous, Cabraja; Jeggo (McKirdy 73), Stevenson; McGeady, Campbell, Youan; Nisbet.

Hearts (3-1-4-2): Clark; Hill (Atkinson 81), Sibbick, Rowles; Snodgrass; M Smith (Forrest 86), Devlin, McKay (Grant 65), Cochrane (Kingsley 60); Ginnelly (Humphrys 65), Shankland.

Referee: Don Robertson.

Attendance: 18,622.