London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Webster stays equal to the task

Patrick Glenn at Easter Road
Sunday April 24, 2005
The Observer

Unlike three-year-old colts and fillies, football players have the chance to take part in more than one derby, with varying degrees of success. The result in this latest renewal of the Edinburgh version may have been hard on a generally more impressive Hibernian team, but it did at least keep their great rivals at bay in the chase for the last place in Europe.

Having led twice through Garry O'Connor and Derek Riordan, Tony Mowbray's team were extremely unlucky to concede a second equaliser, through Andy Webster's header, after Lee Miller's first-half strike.

In the circumstances that surrounded he match, there was never likely to be much love lost at Easter Road. Edinburgh derbies at this advanced stage of the season in recent years have frequently been rendered meaningless (except in the context of tradition) by the failure of one team or the other to have maintained their hopes of a securing a proper reward.

On this occasion, that last place in the Uefa Cup was a juicy bone between two dogs and there would be no relenting in the struggle for possession.

That Hibs already had three-quarters of it in their grasp - going into the match with an eight-point lead over their neighbours - would be no discouragement for their opponents, the latter still motivated by an urge for retribution after their defeat by Hibs at Tynecastle 10 days earlier.

Despite that, there was an initial disarray about Hearts that allowed the home team not only to replenish their self-belief, but to exploit their territorial advantage in the most telling way possible, by taking that early lead.

It began with a corner on the left, Derek Riordan taking the return from Dean Shiels and whipping the cross into the goalmouth. It was headed out to Scott Brown on the right and when his low cross was delivered, O'Connor moved forward as the visiting team's defenders moved out, leaving him isolated and with the simple job of tapping the ball over the line from six yards.

With Hibs at that stage controlling the midfield, there was a serious danger of Hearts suffering irreparable damage before they had a chance to establish any kind of rhythm. But their resoluteness and gradual recovery served them well, equalising at a time when they had begun to threaten.

It was from a long pass played forward that Mark Burchill expertly laid the ball of to Miller on the right of the area, the striker chesting the ball down and finishing by flicking the volley high into the net from close range. But, with Burchill having sent a header against a post, Simon Brown having saved well from Andy Webster and Joe Hamill having blocked Gary Caldwell's goalbound shot on the line, that first half was a monument to equality.

Yet, in another aggressive start to the second period, Hibs squandered enough opportunities to enter the points in the ledger before regaining the lead through Riordan. The big striker Amadou Konte was first to miss, going clear on the right of the area and allowing Gordon to save a weak attempt at a finish.

But the Mali forward may have been a little unlucky to have his headed 'goal' disallowed for offside in what seemed to be a very tight decision. But when Shiels slid in to reach and then slice wide Riordan's low cross from the left, a certain uneasiness would invade the home team's supporters.

It was relieved by Riordan's extraordinary strike. Gary Smith began the process with a wonderfully controlled and accurately volleyed pass from defence to Riordan in the inside-left position.

As Robbie Neilson ill-advisedly backed off, Riordan dragged the ball wide of the full-back and sent a magnificent left-foot drive high into the far corner of the net from about 18 yards. The quality of the strike and Hibs' overall superiority for most of that second half entitled them to victory and Hearts' late equaliser was a cruel reward for their efforts.

Hartley's free-kick, which seemed to be a scoring attempt, appeared to be deflected straight to the head of Webster, who, unmarked sent the ball low to the left of Simon Brown from six yards.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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