London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth James Porteous auth-> Mike McCurry
[G O'Connor 8] ;[D Riordan 63]
17 of 020 Lee Miller 23 ;Andy Webster 88 L SPL A
Hibernian 2 - 2 Hearts

JAMES PORTEOUS at Easter Road April 25 2005

FOUR goals, some excellent football, bloodthirsty tackles, a 'tunnel bust-up' and a bit of comedy defending: the ingredients of a classic derby, but at least two spectators left disappointed.

A draw suited neither Tony Mowbray nor John Robertson, who competed afterwards to deliver the most lugubrious post-match interview, but as the Hearts manager admitted, it was a "better point" for Hibs.

Their lead over Aberdeen in the race for third and a UEFA Cup place may have been cut to two points after Andy Webster's headed equaliser two minutes from time, but Mowbray's team remain favourites: Aberdeen's next two games are against the Old Firm before they visit Easter Road.

Robertson needed a win to keep his team's own hopes alive and to make the review of his position this June a little less strenuous. With Hearts now eight points behind their Edinburgh rivals, the speculation over the manager's future that chief executive Phil Anderton has stirred up, inadvertently or not, will continue.

Robertson replied testily to further questions on the topic. Hearts have slipped from the standards set by Craig Levein, but few would argue that his successor does not deserve another season. Unfortunately, if reports are correct, among those few are a bunch of Lithuanians sitting in the Tynecastle boardroom.

Paul Hartley, who set up both Hearts goals, says the manager must stay. "There's been a lot of talk about the manager's future but the players are right behind him and hopefully his future will be sorted out soon," said the midfielder, whose gradual dominance of midfield in the first half took Hearts back into the game after Garry O'Connor had tapped in a Scott Brown cross in the eighth minute to put Hibs ahead.

"Everyone's saying we've had a poor season but we got to two cup semi-finals and made the group stages in Europe. I think that's a successful season, with the transition period of the takeover and the new manager coming in.

"It was always going to be difficult when Mr Romanov came in, it's going to take time for the manager to instill his own ideas, and he was always going to have a hard act to follow in Craig Levein. But the football we've been playing has been exciting stuff: hopefully the new owner will have a look at what we're trying to do here and hopefully the manager will be here for a few years."

Mark Burchill had already hit a post before his team equalised in the 23rd minute. Hartley played the ball up to Burchill, who flicked it first time over the defensive line to Lee Miller, who lashed in from a tight angle on the right. It was his 11th goal in 19 games since joining on loan from Bristol City, probably adding another £20,000 to his spiralling price. The board's refusal to sanction a permanent deal must further depress Robertson.

"He's been magnificent for us," said the manager. "He's done everything we've asked and more. We know the quality the big man has and if he continues to perform like that I don't think he can be far from a call-up to the national squad."

Miller was booked for celebrating wildly in front of the Hibs fans, fairly daft when Hibs' Ian Murray was warned by police for similar behaviour in the last derby 10 days ago.

Referee Mike McCurry's willingness to let almost any foul go unchecked – Hartley and Scott Brown somehow both lasted until late in the second half before finally getting booked – ensured tempers simmered away nicely, though the match never boiled over as other Edinburgh derbies have this season, despite some half-time handbags in the tunnel.

Hibs controlled most of the second half, and Amadou Konté and Dean Shiels both should have scored before Derek Riordan did in the 63rd minute. The forward, moved to the left wing to accommodate the more imposing Konté, took the ball on the touchline and drove at Robbie Neilson. He pushed the Hearts right-back into the penalty area, then cut inside him and speared a left-foot shot across the face of goal and into the top corner.

"One of Derek's assets isn't his physical attributes, when he's playing up front he's got to find holes and drifts wide," said the Hibernian manager, Mowbray. "We thought their right-back isn't really a gallivanting, overlapping full-back, he simply wants to defend, so we thought that we could sit Derek out there without the work ethic that wide midfielders need."

Ten minutes later, Hibs almost presented Hearts with an equaliser. The defending from both teams was laughable at times, but the best bit of pantomime came from home goalkeeper Simon Brown. Having collected the ball, he dropped it to his feet, oblivious to the 15,000 shouts of "He's behind you!". Miller was lurking, nipped in, and got taken down on the edge of the box. Neither penalty nor free-kick was awarded, and it was perhaps a sign of Robertson's mood that he could hardly even raise his spirits to properly castigate McCurry afterwards.

Taken from the Herald

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