Talking point: How Hearts turned the derby tables in 2018
A year ago Hearts and Hibs played out a goalless draw at Tynecastle in the final Edinburgh derby of 2017.
That match - infamous for the Oli Shaw “goal” that wasn’t awarded - allowed the Easter Road side to make it nine consecutive matches undefeated against their city rivals. “Here we go, ten in a row” was the chant from the expectant Hibs support as they returned to Gorgie just a few weeks later for a Scottish Cup tie. By that point, Hearts appeared to have completely lost their way in the fixture, with Hibs, well ahead of them in the Premiership, seemingly on course for a sustained period of Capital city superiority.
Yet over the past year, Craig Levein’s side have steadily managed to turn the tide. Last night’s victory at Easter Road means they have won three, drawn one and lost one of the five derbies played throughout 2018. They are unbeaten in the last three and sit seven points ahead of Hibs in the league going into the winter break. Perhaps most significantly, Hearts have stopped the rot in Leith after a barren run of six matches without a win on the east side of the city since Callum Paterson scored a double in a 2-1 victory in April 2014.
Five consecutive defeats at Easter Road had left some supporters viewing Hibs away in a fretful light, rather than relishing it. Many would have taken a draw if offered before last night’s fixture. But after Olly Lee’s sensational strike secured a spirited victory, Hearts have now shown they have the ability and the character to handle the unique demands of this formidable fixture and come out on top. They have had some impressive one-off results over the past few seasons, but this was surely the most gleefully-celebrated triumph since they emerged from administration in 2014.
Morale levels among players, management and supporters have suddenly gone through the roof after a difficult couple of months, and Hearts can now look ahead to the second half of the season buoyed by the knowledge that they have impressively turned the derby tables back in their favour since Don Cowie’s scrappy goal settled the aforementioned Scottish Cup tie 11 months ago.