Hibs 0, Hearts 3: Ten-man Jambos march into fifth round as Hibs fail to take chances
Goals from Josh Ginnelly, Lawrence Shankland, and Toby Sibbick secured Hearts’ place in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup at the expense of a Hibs side that has suffered consecutive three-goal derby defeats since the turn of the year.
It’s also the second time in 12 months Robbie Neilson’s side have consigned their rivals to a cup exit. This was not a meek performance, or a limp exit – Hibs were arguably the better performers across the piece but, clichéd though it is, if you don’t take your chances in football you leave empty-handed – and that’s exactly how it played out for Hibs.
Lee Johnson handed new signing James Jeggo a baptism of fire as the Australian internationalist lined up in a makeshift midfield alongside Josh Campbell and Lewis Stevenson, while injury robbed the Easter Road boss of the services of Jake Doyle-Hayes and Kyle Magennis, out with a hip flexor issue and hamstring strain respectively, with Joe Newell suspended following his red card in the Scottish Cup semi-final encounter between the two sides at Hampden last season.
Chris Cadden recovered from a knock to take up his usual berth at right-back while Marijan Čabraja returned to the starting line-up at left-back. Academy pair Ethan Laidlaw and Oscar MacIntyre were named on the bench.
After the last derby produced an opener inside the opening ten minutes, Hibs would have been hellbent on not conceding an early goal but lightning struck twice – even after the hosts had two presentable opportunities themselves. Michael Smith did just enough to distract Élie Youan from pulling the trigger on four minutes, the Northern Ireland internationalist poking the ball wide for a corner, before Aiden McGeady picked out Josh Campbell with a near-post cross only for the midfielder’s flicked effort to come back off the post. Hibs would rue those chances on ten minutes.
A Robert Snodgrass free kick from the right flank wasn’t fully cleared, Kevin Nisbet’s header falling nicely for Ginnelly who hit it first time through a pack of bodies and beyond David Marshall.
Hibs at least showed a bit of steel after going behind, and McGeady forced a smart save from Zander Clark after Nisbet won the ball in midfield, Youan switching play before releasing the winger down the left flank for a run on goal. Shortly after the half-hour mark Youan and McGeady combined again, but Campbell could only find the side-netting from McGeady’s inviting cross to the back post. Marshall then denied Smith after Alex Cochrane had picked him out as Hearts pushed for a second, and Lawrence Shankland wasn’t too far away with a speculative effort from distance.
Hibs started the second half strongly and a darting run by Youan needed some desperate defending from a combination of Snodgrass and Clark to clear the danger. McGeady then cut inside from the left but his effort from range was wildly off-target.
Hearts then countered after a Stevenson cross was cleared but Shankland’s low effort was easily scooped up by Marshall. Youan would go close again after picking up the ball on the right and tying Cochrane in knots but the Frenchman’s effort lacked power and was straight at Clark. On the hour mark the unlikely figure of Stevenson attempted a scissors-kick from McGeady’s cross but it flew wide. Clark then had to be alert to beat away a well-struck effort from Cadden.
It was virtually one-way traffic towards the Hearts penalty area, not unlike the new year derby at Tynecastle Park. But as has so often been the case with Hibs this season, the build-up play was good and effective but the final ball lacking.
The differences between Hibs and their city rival this season have been plentiful but none more so than Hearts’ ability to be devastating in the final third. With 18 minutes on the clock, Devlin won the ball back from Youan as the on-loan St. Gallen forward looked to break. Shankland picked up the ball, exchanged passed with substitute Stephen Humphrys, and rifled the ball beyond Marshall for Hearts’ second, and the strike that made him the first striker in maroon to reach 20 goals in a season since John Robertson in 1991/92.
As the net bulged the home fans made for the exits. Hibs had dominated proceedings without ever really threatening to breach Clark’s goal. Hearts had had limited chances but crucially had taken them. Not even a red card for Shankland for a second yellow after a foul on Rocky Bushiri made a difference. Hibs piled forward and Youan cracked an effort off the far post but it felt like the same movie playing out that has been shown again and again at Easter Road this campaign.
When a Čabraja cross failed to beat the first man, Hearts sensed a third might be in the offing. They might not have suspected centre-back Toby Sibbick would be the man to canter clear of the Hibs defence and dink it, with all the expertise of a seasoned striker, beyond Marshall.
Subs and coaching staff from the away dugout surged onto the pitch towards the South Stand housing the jubilant visiting support. Chants of ‘there’s only one Lee Johnson’ rang out as those Hibs fans who had remained streamed towards the exits.
There was concern for Bushiri who was stretchered off during the eight minutes of injury time with what looked like a serious injury. Depending on the prognosis, Johnson’s transfer plans may be thrown into disarray if there becomes a need to bring in cover for the Belgian stopper.
Hibs now face a hugely important league clash next week against Aberdeen, who haven’t had their problems to seek recently either. Play like they did against Hearts, and they stand a good chance of a vital three points. But as has been said so often this season, they need to take their chances.