London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Natasha Woods auth-> Mike McCurry
[G O'Connor 8] ;[D Riordan 63]
10 of 020 Lee Miller 23 ;Andy Webster 88 L SPL A

Simmering tie fails to reach boiling point

By Natasha Woods at Easter Road

THE chorus was taken up almost the moment the visitors scored their late equaliser. “No Hearts in Europe” the Hibs fans chanted, as if that was some consolation for the two points which suddenly evaporated amid maroon celebrations.

Hearts supporters had a ready-made response when news of the result from Fir Park drifted through. “Aberdeen, Aberdeen” they taunted, knowing scorelines elsewhere made Hibernian’s grip on third place and that prized Uefa Cup spot somewhat less secure. As usual, no love lost in the Edinburgh derby, but no crowd trouble either, which, in light of the coin-throwing at the sides’ last meeting 10 days before, and the controversy which tends to surround the fixture, represented something of a relief.

Still, when referee Michael McCurry blew the final whistle, Gary Smith was picking himself up off the floor and refusing to shake Lee Miller’s hand, believing the Hearts striker had deliberately felled him with an elbow. Some things don’t change. This match simmered without boiling over; a couple of controversial moments at the end of each half the closest proceedings came to truly exploding.

“I don’t think there was anything untoward,” said Tony Mowbray, the Hibs boss. “It was a great game of football, everything a derby should be with the passion, commitment, tackling and efforts at each end.”

It was just that – a compelling and combustible encounter ending with the points being shared and John Robertson all but conceding Hearts won’t make it three successive seasons in Europe. “The point suited Hibs’ aspirations more than ours,” said a man whose own future at Tynecastle is up for review in June. If Vladimir Romanov decides to make a change then this may prove Robertson’s last derby in charge.

“No” and “No” were his curt responses to post-match questions about whether he was worried about his future or had asked to discuss it with Hearts’ Lithuanian paymaster.

At least Robertson had no reason to talk himself into trouble with the game’s authorities, even couching his team’s claims for a second-half penalty in less than compelling terms. “We are convinced it might have been a penalty,” he said of an incident in which goalkeeper Simon Brown tangled with Miller and the Hearts striker ended up on the deck.

Referee McCurry handled a difficult situation well. A more card-happy official could well have stoked the fire rather than kept the flames at bay. He wore luminous green, which seemed appropriate given it was the colour favoured by the police and stewards lining the pitch to maintain order.

The supports battled, but only in verbal spats; the Hearts fans attempting to drown out the familiar strains of “500 Miles”, pumped out over the stadium sound system before kick-off. The body language of those in the stands ebbed and flowed like the match in front of them but, by and large, the players kept their heads through the adulation and the abuse.

Still, it wouldn’t be a derby without moments of doubt arising as to the intelligence of some out on the pitch. Given the storm that surrounded what the police deemed inflammatory celebrations when Hibs clinched victory over their city rivals 10 days ago, there was always going to be a concern over similar scenes recurring. So when Miller made it 1-1, he surely couldn’t have thought to escape without a yellow card as he danced provocatively in front of the Hibs support.

And then there was Scott Brown, Hibernian’s own incendiary device, feigning to put his foot over the ball in a challenge with Lee Wallace midway through the first half; effectively showing his studs to the young Hearts full-back.

If the referee spotted the fake lunge he ignored it, but Mowbray did not, lecturing his own player on the sidelines.

Mowbray’s body language and finger-pointing left no-one in any doubt what the manager felt about such behaviour.

Scott Brown and Miller were at it again as the half ended, Miller felling the Hibs midfielder and then aiming abuse at his prostrate opponent. Already on a booking, he was lucky to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Afterwards his manager suggested Miller, 21, had a future as a Scotland player. Whether Robertson’s own future lies at Hearts is another question, one which events yesterday made no clearer.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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