No Hallowe'en treats from Hibs as tempers flare in derby
Ten-man Hibs held on to take a point from an explosive Edinburgh derby in which Hibs striker Flo Kamberi was sent off and boss Neil Lennon hit in the face by a pound coin thrown from behind the away dug-out.
It was an unsavoury incident but so too was the sight of Hearts goalkeeper Bobby Zlamal being struck as he retrieved the ball from behind his goal where the 3329 Hibs fans were gathered.
Hibs had travelled to Tynecastle knowing they had not won in Gorgie in five-and-a-half years but a dogged battling performance prevented it becoming a house of horrors for them once again.
Having seen off an early Heats onslaught, Hibs enjoyed the better of the first half, Stephen Mallan’s long-range shot clipping the crossbar before the midfielder had Zlamal scurrying across his line to push away a netbound free-kick.
Kamberi, booked in the first half, was sent off after leaving Oliver Bozanic face down on the turf, leaving his team-mates to play out the final 26 minutes a man short as the red mist threatened to descend.
Hearts boss Craig Levein threw everything he had at it in a bid to make his team’s numerical superiority count and thought it had worked, as Clevid Dikamona took advantage of mayhem inside the visiting penalty area to nod home what looked like a late, late winner for the league leaders. But the offside flag had been raised, Lennon turning with an obvious look of delight on his face only to crumple to the ground when struck where he received treatment from club doctor Duncan Reid before regaining his feet.
Hibs looked spooked in the opening minutes as Hearts came at them like men possessed, goalkeeper Adam Bogdan forced to throw himself high to his right to push aside Olly Lee’s rising shot from 25 yards before Dikamona tried his luck with a spectacular overhead kick which flew high over.
It was fast and furious as always in those opening minutes as Hibs sought to gain a foothold in the game, Marvin Bartley, handed the captain’s armband as he started his first league match since early August, picking up an early booking for flattening his opposite number Peter Haring.
But having weathered that early storm Neil Lennon’s players began to enjoy a bit of possession, Darren McGregor sending a header from Mallan’s corner into the side-netting before Zlamal breathed a huge sigh of relief as the midfielder’s shot clipped the top of his crossbar.
Mallan curled a trademark free-kick just wide and then Kamberi hammered a powerful shot straight into Zlamal’s arms before Mallan had him scrambling across his line to get a hand on the ball after he’d spotted the goalkeeper had left a huge gap to his right as he lined up another free-kick.
After that opening 15 minutes Hibs had decidedly held the upper-hand, the muscle of Bartley, who might have been considered by some a touch lucky not to have seen red for that early challenge on Haring given the way he had flown into the challenge, helping combat the physicality of the home side, a factor which had concerned many of those travelling from the other side of the city.
As engrossing as the first half had been, in truth there had been little evidence of finesse, guile or craft on display, the respective set of fans indulging themselves in a sarcastic chorus of “hoof” as safety first tactics were deployed at the first sniff of danger.
Those 15 minutes at the interval had clearly re-energised the Gorgie side who began the second half in exactly the same manner they had the first, Hibs finding themselves pinned down inside their own area with Lennon urging them not to start sitting too deep.
Tempers began to fray, Martin Boyle reacting angrily to a challenge from Hearts Michael Smith, pushing away the Hearts star although referee Andrew Dallas judged both players were equally at fault and booking both. But the game erupted in the 64th minute as Kamberi, booked in the first half for persistent fouling, sent Bozanic to the deck as the pair went for an aerial ball, the challenge resulting in an ugly melee involving almost every player and a red card for the Swiss striker.
Hearts, who had been operating with Haring as a make-shift centre-forward, immediately threw on forward Craig Wighton in place of Bozanic in a bid to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
In contrast, Hibs were left with only Boyle as a front-runner, hoping to use his blistering pace to create that one opening they craved although it was obvious it was going to be a hard shift. Oli Shaw inherited that thankless task as he took over for the final ten minutes.
Consequently it was becoming increasingly a backs-to-the-wall battle for Hibs as they desperately tried to hang on for a draw and, at least, prevent table-topping Hearts stretching their advantage over them to 11 points.
Dikamona thought he’d won it as the game moved into four added minutes, taking advantage of a mix-up in the centre of the Hibs defence to send a header into the net only to find the offside flag raised against Haring. Lennon turned to the home fans with sheer delight on his face and was sent crashing to the ground as he was struck by something thrown from behind his dug-out.