Darren McGregor has warned Hearts to enjoy their derby-day bragging rights, promising they’ll be stripped of them next time they face Hibs.
Don Cowie’s late goal ended the Easter Road outfit’s nine-match dominance of their Capital rivals and in the process knocked Neil Lennon’s side out of the Scottish Cup.
While admitting the Jambos were the better side as he and his team-mates turned in a below-par performance at Tynecastle, McGregor revealed he already has March 10 ringed in his diary – the next time the two are scheduled to clash.
Hearts boss Craig Levein was slammed by Lennon as being “disrespectful” and lacking humility after boasting his team’s victory was “the start of trying to restore the natural order of things”, a claim which McGregor found just as annoying given Hibs had not only been on top for more than three years but had knocked the Gorgie side out of the Cup in each of the two previous seasons in which they were playing Championship football.
The defender said: “I heard that but at the end of the day you take the good with the bad. If we go and beat them next time I’m sure the gaffer and a few of us will have something to say.
“That’s football, we’ve had the upper hand for a few years. They can take the bragging rights just now, but I am sure the next time we play them we will take them back of them.”
Sunday was McGregor’s first taste of defeat in a derby, but the lifelong Hibs fan conceded that it was inevitable the unbeaten run would come to an end – his biggest regret being it did so in such a manner.
He said: “If you look at the game as a whole, Hearts were the better side from start to finish. It hurts to say that, but it’s an honest assessment.
“If we had got away with a draw would we have been thankful? Probably. In times gone by drawing at Tynecastle and taking them back to our bit has always been a good result as it’s turned out well for us.
“I think the Hearts team that started the game was probably one of the strongest Hearts sides we’ve played in recent years. They had strength in depth with a bit of experience added on to that.
“You take the good with the bad. We went nine games undefeated, knocked them out of the cup two consecutive years. It had to end at some point, I’m just disappointed it did so in the manner in which it did.”
A third replay at Easter Road in as many years was looking very much on the cards until Cowie got the faintest of touches on skipper Christophe Berra’s header, enough to take it beyond the desperate efforts of Hibs midfielder John McGinn to clear and enough for the ball to cross the line sufficiently for assistant referee Andrew McWilliams to indicate a goal.
The fact it had come hard on the heels of Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin tipping over a Martin Boyle piledriver only served to heighten the pain felt by all in green and white.
Pointing out that Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano had pulled off a stunning save from Gorgie new boy Demetri Mitchell, McGregor said: “It came from our corner, they broke and we conceded a corner which they hung up at the back post.
“Berra won the header and John said he had caught the flight of the ball and was going to clear it when Cowie just touched it and changed the angle of the knock-down so it evaded him.
“I actually thought it hadn’t crossed the line – but the boys said it had so the officials got it right.”
The irony of the nature of Hearts’ goal wasn’t lost on McGregor, Hibs having been denied a potential match-winner on their previous visit to Tynecastle in December when those in charge failed to spot teenage striker Oli Shaw’s effort had crossed the line.
“The last time was a huge annoyance,” admitted McGregor, “You have to give them credit, they’ve got it right this time. You have to take the good with the bad.
“However, it was a tough one to take. It was a hard-fought game, did they edge it? Probably. But I still think we did enough for a draw. It was disappointing to lose it in the last few minutes.”
Now Hibs have only the Premiership table to look at, McGregor determined to hold onto the fourth place they occupy at present and, hopefully, even improve on that position.
He said: “I’ve said time and again that we’ve ben a bit spoiled over the past few years at this club with semi-finals and finals in both cups.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t keep that going, but the gaffer congratulated us on our unbeaten run against Hearts.
“It’s ended, but now we’ll look to get back on the bandwagon. We’ll have two more games against Hearts this season and that will give us the opportunity to do so.”