Hearts, through their own fault in the unruly Scottish Cup tie against Celtic, were without McLaren, Kidd and McPherson for the meeting with Hibs because of suspension, while John Robertson could not start because of injury and illness, and captain Gary Mackay couldn’t finish due to a pulled hamstring.
Because there are times when a player has to put the good of the club before the good of his health, both Craig Levein and Mike Galloway conveniently forgot about the injuries they had sustained in training the day before and went out with their teeth gritted, the way it used to be in the comics.
This, then, really was one from the heart and Hibs were eventually overwhelmed by the level of determination that was shown after they had started the match looking likely to take logical advantage of Hearts’ sense of disarray.
In fact, both Hearts goals were the result of negligence in defence to round off what must have been a miserable end to a depressing week for Hibs manager, Alex Miller.
The only positive aspect was the signing of, and performance given by, Keith Houchen. The Englishman, though, must have wondered if he had done the right thing when he spent the first 20 minutes trying to follow what was pandemonium.
The former Coventry forward did what he is obviously good at and used his height and strength in the air to score the Hibs goal. Neil Orr’s free kick was met by Houchen at Henry Smith’s right hand post and headed powerfully into the opposite corner of the net. If one has to make a quick impression on the supporters at a new club, that is undoubtedly the way to do it.
Hearts were about the business of keeping what remains of their season alive and when they take on that hungry look, they become a credit to Alex MacDonald and what he has turned the club into over the last eight years.
Consequently, when Hibs scored Hearts grew even more industrious and within five minutes, along with the aid of extreme generosity on the part of a defence that became startled by an Iain Ferguson free kick, Eamonn Bannon had equalised after picking up a loose rebound and shooting low and true.
Thereafter, if the truth be told, the game went back to being one that was not for those of a nervous disposition and the bride dressed in white who was sitting with her husband in his tails and Hearts scarf in the stand must have been wondering if she had grounds for a quickie divorce on the basis of mental cruelty.
The appearance of John Robertson 25 minutes from the end, however, enlivened the proceedings and the way in which he took advantage of the ball breaking off Sneddon’s chest and lashed it behind Goram was a reminder of the way it used to be with that player in that ground in front of those supporters and against that particular club.
It was not surprising, then, that Robertson went mildly apoplectic, endangering his pelvic muscle problem by attempting to scale the fencing that was always thought there to keep the crowd from the players rather than the other way round. That’s showbusiness.
Hearts: Smith, Sandison, McKinlay, Levein, Berry, Black, Colquhoun, Mackay, Galloway, Ferguson, Bannon.
Hibs: Goram, Hunter, Sneddon, May, Rae, Mitchell, Orr, Houchen, Kane, Collins, Evans.