Hibs may have been celebrating a first win at Tynecastle in six years but, for Lewis Stevenson, the latest Edinburgh derby marked yet another milestone.
The only Easter Road player to hold winner’s medals from both the Scottish and League Cups, the club’s longest-serving player is rapidly closing in on 450 appearances in a green shirt, his current total of 444 bettered by just nine players in the Capital outfit’s 144-year history.
However, lost amid the euphoria which encompassed the win which lifted Paul Heckingbottom’s side above their closest rivals and into the chase for a Europa League spot – a scenario which was unthinkable only two months ago – was the fact that the occasion saw Stevenson eclipse Gordon Smith’s record of derby day appearances for Hibs.
It was Stevenson’s 39th such match, moving ahead of the legendary member of the Famous Five, albeit one of those games included a 17-minute cameo as a substitute.
The 31-year-old professed to being unaware of his achievement until after the final whistle in Gorgie but, he admitted, to hit that landmark with a victory – particulary on the other side of the city – simply added to what was a memorable day.
The only survivor, along with team-mate Paul Hanlon, of that day in May 2013, when goals from Leigh Griffiths and Ross Caldwell capped Hibs’ fightback, Stevenson said: “It’s been a long time coming – hopefully we won’t have to wait as long again. I didn’t know what the game meant to me in terms of derby appearances but it’s really something to find myself in such good company as Gordon Smith. And to win the game meant it was a nice way to do it. Obviously, it’s a bit different nowadays when we invariably play each other four times a season as opposed to his time when it was only twice, but even so I’m proud to have done so.”
Stevenson’s personal derby record, which now covers 12 years, is finely balanced but slightly tilted in Hearts’ favour, the little full back having suffered 14 defeats to his 12 wins with 13 matches drawn but, he conceded, he’d never have thought he’d have played in so many.
Joking that he was jealous of team-mates Marc McNulty, Stephane Omeonga and Jonathan Spector enjoying a derby win at the first time of asking, Stevenson said: “I’d never have thought I’d play in so many after my first one, beaten at Easter Road after winning the CIS Insurance Cup. You remember days like that, but when I hang up my boots I will have a few fond memories looking back on such matches – they just make wins like Saturday’s all the sweeter.
“I feel that they’ve enjoyed a few smash and grabs against us when we have been the better team, somehow finding a goal out of nowhere.
“To be honest, we’ve probably played a lot better than we did at the weekend at times and been beaten but, again, that probably makes it that little bit more satisfying.”
As was the case six years ago, Hibs had to come behind after Peter Haring had headed Hearts in front, winger Daryl Horgan becoming the first Easter Road player since Joe McBride in 1985 to score two goals in a match at Tynecastle as Heckingbottom’s players made it 20 points out of a possible 24 since the new head coach took charge.
Recalling Caldwell’s last-minute equaliser six years ago, Stevenson said: “People still talk about that goal. I still bump into Ross from time to time and remember the great day he gave us.
“Now Daryl’s done the same. He’ll be the hero in the fans’ eyes. I was delighted for him, he’s a great guy who has done so much this season.”
Horgan’s second came in the 56th minute, leaving Stevenson and his team-mates a much longer spell to negotiate than then. But, while agreeing Hearts were well worth their opening goal – Olly Lee having hit the woodwork earlier – he insisted Heckingbottom’s side were well worth their win.
He said: “It took us a while to get going. We knew what we would have to deal with, the smashes up the pitch, set-pieces and the like and it took as a bit of time to get used to it but overall I thought we defended pretty well.
“It was important to get back on level terms as quickly as we did but I felt both of our goals showed that bit of quality we have.
“Hearts did have a few half-chances but they never cut us open. We knew it would be about second balls but we had worked on that in training and, while it was disappointing to lose the goal from a set-piece, we knew how it was going to be.
“But Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon have great experience and did superbly for us, as did Ofir Marciano when called upon.”
Stevenson admitted, however, that as he looked up that left touchline his eyes were continually drawn to the clock ticking down the minutes in the far corner. He said: “It was probably the worst thing I could have done.
“At times it looked as if it was running backwards. But, having said that, I didn’t feel we were under too much pressure. It’s not as if Hearts were creating chance after chance.”
Heckingbottom cut possibly the calmest figure inside Tynecastle as he stood impassively in his technical area, signalling subtle switches in formation, again something that is addressed on a daily basis at East Mains.
Stevenson said: “It may go unnoticed at the time during games but we work in tactical and personnel changes which can make it difficult and confuse the opposition while retaining that fluidity.
“There’s nothing that happens in that regard during a game that’s going to cause us any problems. The gaffer has been brilliant. There’s a great togetherness about the squad. We still have a lot to play for when, perhaps before he came in, people felt everything was drifting away from us.”
LEWIS STEVENSON DERBY RECORD
April 1, 2007: Hibs 0, Hearts 1 (Zaliukas)
May 12, 2007: Hearts 2 (Pospisil, Driver), Hibs 0
August 6, 2007: Hearts 0, Hibs 1 (Kerr)
November 4, 2007: Hibs 1 (Berra og), Hearts 1 (Nade)
October 19, 2008: Hibs 1 (Fletcher), Hearts 1 (Aguiar)
January 3, 2009: Hearts 0, Hibs 0
January 11, 2009: Hibs 0, Hearts 2 (Nade, Glen)
March 14, 2009: Hibs 1 (Fletcher), Hearts 0
May 7, 2009: Hearts 0, Hibs 1 (Riordan, pen)
November 7, 2009: Hearts 0, Hibs 0
March 20, 2010: Hearts 2 (Driver, Glen), Hibs 1 (Riordan)
November 7, 2010: Hibs 0, Hearts 2 (Templeton, Elliott)
January 2, 2012: Hibs 1 (Zaliukas og), Hearts 3 (McGowan, Webster, Skacel)
March 18, 2012: Hearts 2, (Beattie, Suso), Hibs 0
May 19, 2012: Hibs 1 (McPake), Hearts 5 (Barr, Skacel 2, Grainger pen, McGowan)
August 12, 2012: Hibs 1,(Griffiths), Hearts 1 (Driver)
December 12, 2012: Hibs 1, (Zaliukas og), Hearts 0
January 3, 2013: Hearts 0, Hibs 0 (Stevenson substitute appearance)
March 10,2013: Hibs 0, Hearts 0
May 12, 2013: Hearts 1 (Barr), Hibs 2 (Griffiths, Caldwell)
August 11, 2013: Hearts 1 (Paterson), Hibs 0
October 30, 2013: Hibs 0, Hearts 1 (R Stevenson)
January 2, 2014: Hibs 2 (Collins, Craig pen), Hearts 1 (Smith)
March 30, 2014: Hearts 2 (Carrick, King), Hibs 0
August 17, 2014: Hearts 2 (Nicholson, Buaben pen), Hibs 1 (El Alagui)
October 26, 2014: Hibs 1 (Malonga), Hearts 1 (Ozturk)
January 3, 2015: Hearts 1 (Walker), Hibs 1 (Cummings)
April 12, 2015: Hibs 2 (Cummings, El Alagui), Hearts 0
February 7, 2016: Hearts 2 (Djoum, Nicholson), Hibs 2 (Cummings, Hanlon)
February 16, 2016: Hibs 1 (Cummings), Hearts 0
February 12, 2017: Hearts 0, Hibs 0
February 22, 2017: Hibs 3 (Cummings, Holt, Shinnie), Hearts 1 (Goncalves)
October 24, 2017: Hibs 1 (Murray), Hearts 0
December 27, 2017: Hearts 0, Hibs 0
January 21, 2018: Hearts 1 (Cowie), Hibs 0
March 9, 2018: Hibs 2 (S Allan, Maclaren), Hearts 0
May 9, 2018: Hearts 2 (Lafferty, Naismith), Hibs 1 (Kamberi pen)
October 31, 2018: Hearts 0, Hibs 0
April 6, 2019: Hearts 1 (Haring), Hibs 2 (Horgan 2).