Chants of “Olly, Olly Lee” echoed into the Leith sky on Saturday evening as Hearts fans celebrated Edinburgh derby success. A chorus or two of “Colin, Colin Doyle” would have been equally appropriate.
The English midfielder struck a sumptuous winning goal at Easter Road but his goalkeeper’s contribution was just as vital. Eleven minutes from full-time, with Hearts defending their 1-0 lead manfully, Doyle’s fingertips pushed Steven Whittaker’s 25-yard shot on to the inside of the post. The ball somehow trickled along the goal line and out for a corner.
It was the closest Hibs came to an equaliser, Doyle’s minute touch preserving a clean sheet and ultimately a first win at Easter Road since April 2014. The Irishman was making only his third appearance since dislodging Zdenek Zlamal in the Hearts goal and, for those few seconds at least, earned heroic status.
“I knew I got something on it but I didn’t have a clue where it was,” he admitted. “Somehow, it ended up going across the line and out for a corner. It was a bit of luck in the end. At first I was thinking: ‘Where is it?’ Then I had a look behind me and I saw it roll across.
“I was just praying it was going past the goal because I didn’t know if any of them were following in, or if we were following in. I’m quite pleased it went out for a corner in the end.
“I just flung myself. I saw it come through the bodies. All the lads were saying: ‘What a save.’ It’s pleasing I got something on to it to push it on to the post and it stayed out. Nine times out of ten you might get something on it and it still goes in – or someone comes in and taps it in.”
The 33-year-old enjoyed a quieter outing than many of his predecessors have been subjected to in Capital derbies. Lee’s 28th minute left-footed strike soared into the top corner past Hibs goalkeeper Adam Bogdan. The visitors were commanding in the first half before the home team rallied after the break. Oli Shaw’s effort clipped the top of Doyle’s crossbar before Whittaker came tantalisingly close.
Despite a late Hibs bombardment, Doyle left Easter Road with a second successive clean sheet. “You’re paid to make saves when they’re needed. Other than that I had a couple of routine stops and a couple of crosses I had to come for. It’s pleasing when you make a good save and it contributes to a win,” he said.
“If you make that save and end up drawing or losing, it’s disappointing. We held strong in the last ten minutes when long balls were coming into the box. We got a 1-0 victory so all the lads were buzzing in the changing room afterwards.”
Doyle revelled in the atmosphere having bizarrely never played in a major derby in his entire career. “I was on the bench for Villa v Birmingham, which is quite an intense one, but this was my first major derby and I absolutely loved it,” he explained.
“The next aim is to play one at Tynecastle, which will be even better. I’ll look forward to that but that’s a long way off at the moment. We’ve got a week off, then we’re going away for a few days training, then the season kicks off again. Hopefully the lads will get refreshed and raring to go for the second half of the campaign.”
The goalkeeper revealed some sound advice helped him prepare for Hibs after Zlamal was allegedly struck by one of their fans during October’s Edinburgh derby. “Someone tweeted at me and I didn’t know whether it was a phoney account at first,” said Doyle.
“But, yeah, it was Bobby saying: ‘My friend and team-mate Colin Doyle, wear a gumshield, they love goalkeepers!’ It was all good banter and I enjoyed it.
‘You want to play in big games, we had fantastic support at Easter Road – and now they go off happy into the break. We’ll see what the second half of the fixture brings for us.”