Anthony Brown picks out the key talking points after last night’s derby.
• Hibs are one of the top teams in the country
To beat one, two or possibly even three Premiership teams in a season could be considered a fluke, but to defeat four – including two of the top three – while also drawing at Tynecastle is surely proof enough that Alan Stubbs’ team are currently among the strongest in Scotland. Like Hearts last season, they look to be a high-calibre Scottish Premiership side operating in the second tier. It is reasonable to assume that, in the hypothetical instance they were currently in the top flight, they would be sitting in the top four. If they can keep hold of Stubbs and the bulk of their main men for another couple of seasons, a glittering period beckons.
• Jason Cummings is going from strength to strength
After scoring 21 goals last season, the 20-year-old is now within one goal of that tally with three months of the season remaining. He has scored in all five games against Premiership sides this season and has netted in the last two meetings with title rivals Rangers. Remarkably, he has achieved his 20-goal tally without scoring more than once in any match this term. After doubts last season about his ability to deliver when it really matters, Cummings has clearly taken his game to new heights this term and can be expected to break through the 30-goal barrier before the campaign is out.
• Robbie Neilson must ensure Hearts’ season doesn’t fizzle out
Although he has generally done a magnificent job since being installed as Hearts’ head coach in May 2014, Neilson’s record of five successive Edinburgh derbies without victory has become a bone of contention among supporters. This drought may owe as much Hibs’ emergence as a genuine force to be reckoned with as it does to any failings on Neilson’s part, but that is unlikely to wash as a legitimate reason in the eyes of a support who have grown accustomed to mastering their rivals in this fixture regardless of circumstances. In light of their cup exit, and with nothing else to play for, the head coach now needs to ensure that Hearts, who are a whopping 11 points clear in third place, kick on and secure a European spot with plenty to spare. If they enter a lull and fall over the line, as Jim Jefferies’ team did in the 2010/11 campaign, the murmurs of discontent will only grow louder. Come the end of the season, a comprehensive third-place finish will be enough to ensure the issue of derby toil is kept on the back-burner.
• Juanma Delgado is toiling to live up to the hype
After arriving amid a wave of summer fanfare and initially living up to his billing with some magnificent early-season displays, Juanma has become an increasingly exasperating figure in the eyes of the Hearts support. He clearly has talent, as evidenced by his swashbuckling August form, but his displays in recent months have been blighted by petulance and ineffectiveness. It was widely felt that a period on the bench and out of the limelight might have done him some good, but the Spaniard has done little since returning to the starting line-up to suggest that he can be relied upon to lead the Hearts attack in a productive fashion.
• Hibs thrive on the big-game atmosphere
For several years, prior to Alan Stubbs’ arrival, Hibs toiled to pick up results in front of underwhelmed supporters at a half-empty Easter Road. The win against Hearts showed the other side of the coin, however, as a rare capacity crowd helped roar Hibs into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup. The players also coped admirably at a packed-out Tynecastle against St Johnstone and then Hearts on consecutive weekends and appear to be inspired – rather than inhibited – by playing before a sell-out crowd. This bodes well for their upcoming League Cup final against Ross County and potential title-decider at home to Rangers. If Hibs fail to win the Championship, it will be reassuring for Alan Stubbs to go into the end-of-season play-offs knowing that his players are equipped to deal with high-stakes games in front of big crowds.