Hibs going for ten in a row and rare Tynecastle win
Hibs will take the short journey across Edinburgh on Sunday intent on recording a first away win over Hearts in almost five years while simultaneously making it ten games in a row unbeaten against their city rivals.
Since suffering a 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle on the second weekend of their first season in the Championship in August 2014, the Easter Road side have won four and drawn five of the intervening nine Capital derbies. For Hibs, all this impressive unblemished record is missing is a win over their rivals at Tynecastle – a feat not achieved since Leigh Griffiths and Ross Caldwell scored in a 2-1 victory in May 2013.
The last four derbies in Gorgie have all ended in stalemate, although Hibs were left aggrieved at the failure of the officials to award a goal when Oli Shaw’s effort clearly crossed the line in the goalless Premiership showdown between the sides three weeks ago. Another tight encounter is widely forecast as Hearts and Hibs reconvene in the Scottish Cup for the third year in succession on Sunday.
“Ten in a row unbeaten would be a good run against any team but especially against your main rivals,” said former Hibs captain Ian Murray. “A few of those came when Hibs were in a lower division than Hearts as well, which is unusual. The last few games at Tynecastle have been draws whereas Hibs have made the home advantage count. I don’t think Hibs will be too upset if they get another replay on Sunday. Ultimately they want to get through to the next round of the cup, and they won’t care how they do it, but they’ll definitely think they can win at Tynecastle. They will go there full of confidence because they had a decent result there last time and were slightly the better team. They go there with no fear which is the biggest thing.”
Murray believes Hibs – five points above Hearts in the Premiership – boast slightly the better team, but, having been part of plenty decent sides who have been unable to conquer Tynecastle in the past, he acknowledges their perceived superiority counts as no guarantee that they will make it to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.
“You can go there full of all the confidence in the world, but you still have to turn up on the day,” said Murray. “I would think it will be a tight game again. Derbies are usually on a knife-edge and can go either way and this one certainly looks like it’ll be pretty evenly matched. At the moment, Hibs have probably got the better footballers. They’ve also got a good bit of dig about them. The manager has been good for the players in that regard. A bit like Craig Levein actually, Neil Lennon has a way of getting the players really working hard for him. Both teams are left in no doubt about what is demanded from their managers, which is a really important thing. I think Hibs shade it quality-wise at the moment but it’s not always the best team that wins a derby.”
As a boyhood Hibs fan who first got into football when Hearts were building a remarkable 22-game unbeaten run against Hibs, Murray is pleased to see the balance of power currently resting on the east side of the city. “When I was growing up, Hearts had by far the upper hand over Hibs,” he said. “There was maybe a wee spell in the mid-90s when Hibs won a couple but over the piece Hearts certainly had the upper hand. This is a good period for Hibs fans in terms of the derbies and they have to enjoy because it will turn again at some point, and then it will turn back towards Hibs at some point. You’ve just got to enjoy these runs while they’re in your favour.”
As a Hibs player, Murray enjoyed mixed fortunes in the derby. He particularly enjoyed facing Hearts in the early part of his career under Alex McLeish around the turn of the millennium, and also during Tony Mowbray’s reign in the mid-Noughties. “When we had the likes of Franck Sauzee, Russell Latapy, John O’Neil, Stuart Lovell, Mathias Jack, and all these boys, we went into every derby expecting to win,” he recalls. “Both Hearts and Hibs were far better back then than they are now but we certainly felt we had the far superior team. It didn’t always pan out that way though. The history books show a mixed bag of results for both sides around that time.”
Over the past couple of decades, Hibs have generally held their own in the fixture at Easter Road but struggled at Tynecastle. They have defeated Hearts on their own patch only five times in 39 visits since Gordon Hunter ended that famous 22-game unbeaten run over 23 years ago. Murray was part of two of those wins - the 1-0 triumph in 2009 when Derek Riordan’s penalty won it for an under-strength Hibs side and the 2-1 triumph in April 2005 when Garry O’Connor and Dean Shiels struck for Mowbray’s team. In addition to the most recent win in 2013, Hibs’ only other victories in Gorgie over the last two decades were the 3-0 success in December 1999 (better know as the Millennium derby) and the 1-0 victory secured by Brian Kerr in August 2007.
“It’s good to win any derby but, growing up, you dream of playing for the club you support and playing against your local rivals,” said Murray. “To go there and win is a great feeling, so you have to savour those moments when they come along. We had some really good performances at Tynecastle. You always have to play well if you’re going to win there. The game when Deek scored was totally opposite to the one this weekend because we were struggling for players and were totally written off. We didn’t have a big support at Tynecastle that night but that’s what Hibs have to be wary of on Sunday – the stronger team, or the dominant team, doesn’t always win the game. We got a double whammy that night with (Christos) Karipidis getting sent off in the incident for the penalty but we still had to defend for our lives in the last ten minutes.
“In the 2-1 game where Gaz and Dean scored, I was fortunate not to be sent off. I’d already been on a yellow and then I had a late tackle. It wasn’t that bad but it looked bad so Tony Mowbray took me off straight after, which was good management from him. We lost a shocking goal when Simon Brown misjudged a header from Lee Miller, but we had quite a young team and we didn’t let it effect us too much. We always felt we could beat anyone but to come back from a goal down and win at Tynecastle was a great feeling and a great achievement for us.”