London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Mowbray upbeat as Hearts steal Euro point


WHEN all is said and done a point is better than nothing, but even so there was no hiding the disappointment among Tony Mowbray’s players as they allowed the chance to end Hearts’ interest in the race for Europe slip through their fingers.

With only two minutes remaining on the clock, Hibs appeared to have the victory which would have left their arch-rivals trailing by a massive 11 points with only four matches remaining firmly in their grasp.

But they had a second derby day win in just ten days cruelly snatched from them as Paul Hartley’s free-kick took a deflection and straight on to the head of team-mate Andy Webster who hauled the Gorgie outfit level for the second time in the game.

It was a point stolen by the Jambos, not that the fans clad in maroon behind Simon Brown’s goal cared although their reaction to the news that fourth-placed Aberdeen had won at Motherwell probably said more about their hopes of UEFA Cup football than this draw.

While Mowbray still refuses to rule Hearts completely out of the equation just yet, the fact remains that John Robertson’s side are still eight points off the pace. With games rapidly running out it now seems to be a straight two-horse race between Hibs and Aberdeen. The Dons are a mere two points behind the Easter Road side.

The Pittodrie outfit visit Leith for the penultimate match of the season, a game which Mowbray acknowledged could prove to be a case of winner take all.

But, for the meantime, Mowbray insists that his side will focus on the two games that crop up before then - away to Celtic and Motherwell - while the Dons face both sides of the Old Firm on consecutive weekends.

And he refused to discount the part Hearts could still play in the battle for Europe, saying: "While it is mathematically still there for them they have to keep going and I am sure they will.

"They have shown already that they can go to Celtic Park and win while they also gave them a tough game in the Scottish Cup semi-final. They will believe they can find a big result from somewhere.

"As far as we are concerned, we have to keep going. We cannot affect any results other than our own. We will approach the next four games positively.

"We are in the driving seat and we have to keep pushing on and trying to get results. Aberdeen at home might be a big, big game but we will have to wait and see. By then we might have won some games, we have two more opportunities and Celtic up next is the game we have to focus on."

While a touch disappointed at being forced to settle for a draw - although Hibs remain unbeaten in the last three Edinburgh derbies - Mowbray would find some comfort in the fact that his side, which had perhaps been displaying signs of weariness in recent weeks, showed they still had plenty of fuel in the tank as they hit Hearts with a whirlwind at the start of each half.

It took only eight minutes for Garry O’Connor to claim his 18th goal of the season, the striker finding acres of space as Scott Brown returned Derek Riordan’s deep corner into the danger area as Hearts claimed in vain for offside.

If you could ever say that a goal was deserved so early in a game then this one was well merited, with Hibs having pinned their rivals back right from the very first blast of referee Mike McCurry’s whistle.

Mowbray said: "We’d talked about the importance of making a quick start. At Tynecastle we didn’t start particularly well and in the last derby at Easter Road we didn’t get out of the blocks at the start of the second-half."

Perhaps the goal came too early for Hibs as they then took their foot off the pedal, allowing Hearts to begin to dominate. Lee Miller smacked a header off the base of Simon Brown’s left-hand post before a thrilling move culminated in the on-loan striker holding off Gary Smith to crack home his 11th goal off the underside of the bar.

Hibs began to rock. Simon Brown pulled off a great save from a Webster header before a mix-up between the Hibs goalkeeper and Gary Caldwell almost presented Burchill with an open goal. Hibs felt they had scored again when Caldwell got his knee to Riordan’s corner, the ball appearing to have crossed the line before Joe Hammill booted it away. The second-half started the same as the first, with Hibs racing at Hearts and Gordon looking less than convincing as he bundled a shot from Antonio Murray round his post.

Amadou Konte, starting his first match for Hibs, should have done better than fire a low shot into the arms of Gordon. The same could be said for Dean Shiels, the hero at Tynecastle, when he failed to handle the simple task of prodding Riordan’s low cross in at the back post.

Konte had a header somewhat dubiously ruled off for offside and just as you felt Hibs might pay for passing up these chances, Riordan struck with another stunning strike which had his trademark written all over it.

A sumptuous crossfield pass from Smith, hit on the volley, found Riordan prowling his favoured left touchline. As Robbie Neilson backed off Riordan didn’t need a second invitation, crashing a left-foot shot into the far top corner of the net.

Mowbray said: "I was being questioned about Derek earlier in the week but that is why you keep him on, he is always capable of doing that. It hasn’t been his day for a few weeks but in this game he was very, very good.

"He gave them problems down the right-hand side of their defence, creating opportunities, and was always in their box.

"And if you give him half a yard he is always capable of smashing it into the top corner."

For Riordan it was his fourth derby day goal, but unfortunately for Hibs - as in the three previous cases - it couldn’t buy them the win that they craved. Instead, Murray’s ill-judged tackle on Deividas Cesnauskis, on for the ineffectual Saulius Mikoliunas, presented Hearts with that fateful free-kick.

Mowbray said afterwards: "The players were very disappointed sitting in the dressing room. When an equalising goal comes so late in the game it always leaves everyone a bit deflated. I felt that in the second-half in particular we did enough to win the game on chances created.

"This was a game we couldn’t afford to lose although we were desperate to win, we didn’t manage to do that and now we move on to our next game."

It was a pulsating 90 minutes and a terrific advert for the Edinburgh derby, as Mowbray agreed: "It was everything a derby should be; the passion, the tackling, the commitment, and efforts at goal at both ends.

"You have to give Hearts a lot of credit.

"They had a go and had spells when they were definitely on top but probably for the greater percentage of the time I felt we were in the ascendancy and probably did enough to win."

Taken from the Scotsman

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