London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2004-05--> All for 20050423
<-Page <-Team Sat 23 Apr 2005 Hibernian 2 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Michael Grant auth-> Mike McCurry
[G O'Connor 8] ;[D Riordan 63]
9 of 020 Lee Miller 23 ;Andy Webster 88 L SPL A

Hibernian 2 - 2 Hearts

Michael Grant at Easter Road

WHEN Scotland manager Walter Smith was approaching Easter Road a well-wisher urged him to return to the car for his coat because the afternoon was colder than he might expect. The Scotland manager was not the only one who would have to watch out for nasty surprises. Before the day was out a chill had descended over both of Edinburgh’s European hopefuls.

A derby draw meant Hearts no longer have a realistic hope of finishing third in the SPL for the third consecutive season. Nor was there much for Hibs to gloat over. The concession of a late equaliser, and fourth-placed Aberdeen’s victory, left Tony Mowbray’s side with a precarious two-point advantage in the pursuit of a place in the Uefa Cup. Their lead had been twice as big before kick-off.

It was a shame that no-one in Edinburgh was satisfied at the end of what had been a compelling derby which reflected well on both sides. As befits two clubs racing for the international departure gate, they barged against each other for 90 breathless minutes, each enjoying passages of super- iority and together producing a more entertaining spectacle than might have been expected given the swirling wind cutting across Easter Road.

Derbies are supposed to be self-contained, local matters but this one was all about Europe and the potential windfall of £2 million or so from next season’s Uefa Cup group stage. Hearts manager John Robertson was philosophical later, accepting that the dropped points diluted the pleasure of seeing Andy Webster’s 87th-minute goal deny Hibs their second derby victory in the space of 10 days.

“The draw was right but in the bigger picture it was a far better result for Hibs than for us,” said Robertson. “We will keep going until it is mathematically impossible but we needed to win this match to pull it back. The point certainly suits Hibs’ aspirations rather than ours.”

Robertson stonewalled when he was asked about the implications for his own position, although the failure to qualify for Europe will count against him when Vladimir Romanov carries out his infamous June review of the manager’s performance.

Hibs may yet finish third although next weekend’s visit to Parkhead does not give cause for immediate optimism. The two goals which gave them the lead yesterday hoisted Garry O’Connor and Derek Riordan’s combined tally for the season to 40, which must have been heart-warming for Walter, but it was revealing that Mowbray moved Riordan out to wide midfield and gave the brawny Amadou Konte his first start alongside O’Connor. “Today we wanted the physical side of Amadou. In derby games sometimes it’s not easy to play through the middle and play pretty football.”

Hibs may be uglier to watch in the last four games of the campaign than in the 34 so far.

They scored an early opener yesterday from a set-piece defended poorly by Hearts. Riordan’s corner somehow crossed the penalty area to find Scott Brown, whose diagonal ball sprung Hearts’ attempt to catch O’Connor offside. His 18th goal of the season, a straightforward side-footed finish without the inconvenience of a nearby defender, was one of his easiest.

Hibs had started this derby strongly just as they had finished the previous one 10 days ago, when they scored twice in the final 12 minutes to win for the first time in five years at Tynecastle. Hearts had to assert themselves immediately and did so by striking the foot of the post from a Mark Burchill header and then equalising within a quarter of an hour.

Last week Robertson seemed resentful of the attention devoted to the youthfulness of Hibs’ bright side but on the evidence of Lee Miller’s goal – his 11th in 19 matches – he was entitled to claim that it was Hearts, rather than Mowbray’s team, who had scored the most well-executed goal Edinburgh has seen this season.

Steven Pressley, Saulius Mikoluinas, Neil MacFarlane, Paul Hartley and Mark Burchill exchanged passes before Burchill’s instinctive flick-on played in Miller to lash the ball high into Hibs’ net from a difficult angle near the byline. It was beautifully worked.

Hearts were encouraged into their best period of the match. Webster forced a diving save from Simon Brown and at that point Hearts’ passing and movement was superior to Hibs’, whose lack of rhythm meant they often resorted to playing long, hopeful balls to their athletic front two. They might have restored their lead before half-time, nevertheless, had Gary Caldwell’s bundled effort not been cleared off the line.

Konte forced a crisp save from Gordon then saw a headed “goal” disallowed, but Hibs soon regained their lead through a more familiar source. Riordan’s goal lacked the technical build-up of Miller’s, but his finish was magnificent. He collected a Gary Smith pass to cut inside on to his right foot and unleashed a ferocious shot across Craig Gordon and high inside his top left hand corner before milking Easter Road’s acclaim.

It would have been a fitting winner, and seemed to be so when Hearts were denied a 74th minute penalty after Simon Brown bundled Miller to the ground after the striker had dispossessed him as he was about to make a clearance.

Hibs were ready to celebrate but the songs stuck in their throats. With three minutes left Hartley’s free-kick deflected off the wall into the path of Webster, whose headed connection was straightforward and emphatic. Given that it was his 23rd birthday, that had to do as a consolation for missing European football next year.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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