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|<-Page||<-Team||Mon 06 Aug 2007 Hearts 0 Hibernian 1||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Anatoly Korobochka||<-auth||David Hardie||auth->||Stuart Dougal|
|[B Kerr 3]|
|4||of 005||-----||L SPL||H|
Hibs' spirit shines through in Gorgie
By DAVID HARDIE
IT was, perhaps, highly appropriate that John Collins' new-look Hibs side should end their first SPL match together celebrating on what was the day the Easter Road club was founded 132 years ago.
The fact that August 6 marks Hibs' "birthday" was probably forgotten by most fans in the euphoria of victory but it served to underline that, while players come and go, a football club lives on regardless. The departures of high-profile names such as Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, Ivan Sproule, Chris Killen and Michael Stewart had, of course, thrown the focus very much on Collins and the players he had brought in to replace them.
Many had scoffed at Collins' assertion that, with the exception of Brown, the new faces, accumulated at far less expense than the £10 million plus pulled in by the club in transfer fees over the past 18 months, were every bit as good, if not better, than those who had gone.
Time will tell, of course, but on the evidence of these 90 minutes, the early signs are promising. Some of the names may still be a touch unfamiliar but Collins is determined to hold true to his word that the style of play won't change regardless.
As he said in the wake of Hibs' first victory at Tynecastle in over two years - and his first league win over his club's arch-rivals - time alone will tell as to where that will take the Easter Road outfit.
But Collins' insistence that his team will never play for a draw was emphasised with a bold 4-3-3 formation with Merouane Zemmama and Clayton Donaldson flanking Steven Fletcher at the business end of the park.
The fluency which the Hibs manager demands was all too evident after barely 120 seconds, Fletcher scampering out wide left to chase down a long ball from David Murphy, catching Hearts star Marius Zaliukas as he whipped in a cross which evaded the despairing lunge of Christos Karipidis, leaving Brian Kerr to nip in front of Lee Wallace to nod home what proved to be the winning goal.
Kerr's performance was proof that you don't always have to spend big, the former Newcastle United and Motherwell star, as he had in pre-season matches, showing exactly why Collins, presumably on the advice of his assistant Tommy Craig, one-time reserve team coach on Tyneside, brought him to Easter Road.
The player himself has already stated he feels far more comfortable in his new surroundings having been given the remit to get forward rather than occupy the holding role which was his during a frustrating spell at Fir Park.
Even so, you hardly expect a midfield player to be on the edge of the opposition's six-yard box within the opening two minutes of a derby, the natural inclination of those in the middle of the park being to protect their back four initially rather than go seeking goals.
Collins said: "It can't get better than that for Brian, scoring after just two minutes in a derby. He's a playmaker and he can win the ball in midfield but getting into the opposition box comes naturally to him.
"He gets in on the end of shots and crosses. It was a great ball from Steven, he chased the ball down and whipped in a terrific cross."
It had, of course, been yet another day of upheaval at Tynecastle, Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon missing as he reportedly pursues a move to either Sunderland or Aston Villa while five of the Lithuanian contingent, including last season's top scorer Andrius Velicka were being shipped out.
It was a turn of events which obviously caught everyone at Tynecastle by surprise, with skipper Gordon's match programme notes talking of settling for a similar result to that of Hibs' last visit to Tynecastle.
Scoring goals was something of a problem for Hearts last season and on the evidence of these 90 minutes it's going to be the same again, the home crowd rapidly making up their mind on Ricardas Beniusis who netted 16 goals in Lithuania last season.
Long before he was replaced by Michal Pospisil the Hearts fans were calling for the cumbersome striker to be replaced, the chant of "You don't know what you're doing" reverberating around the less-than-full stadium as, to their frustration, they saw Saulius Mikoliunas taken off in favour of Juho Makela before Beniusis departed.
"Not a problem for me," said Collins, "As long as the Hibs fans are happy."
And happy they were, those who had ignored calls for a boycott to protest the price hike imposed by Hearts, staying behind to declare "We're going to win the league."
A tad over-optimistic and a declaration undoubtedly aired in the intoxicated state a derby win induces although match-winner Kerr insisted a place in Europe has to be the club's aim.
Collins, though, was less inclined to indulge in such heady predictions, the Hibs manager having seen enough already to know much hard work remains to be done on the training ground - and many more matches played - before such a thought will enter his head.
He said: "It was a great start for the boys and the supporters, three points on the board and a cleansheet.
"I was delighted but we could have passed the ball better. However, the fight, the commitment, the togetherness - we played as a real team - was terrific.
"Although we scored so early I was never that comfortable. We never controlled it as we would have liked but we still looked dangerous." Hearts did enjoy much possession but rarely threatened the gigantic frame of Yves Ma-Kalambay in the Hibs goal, the former Chelsea youngster, while a touch unorthodox at times, looking confident and commanding as one would expect.
Collins paid tribute to both him and the back four, saying: "Tynecastle is never an easy place to go, it's a tight, compact ground with the fans right there. Hearts are a hard team to play against, big, physical and well-organised. They get the ball forward quickly but I thought we dealt with it well while the midfield worked tirelessly in front of the defence."
What possession Hibs did enjoy they made the most of, Hearts goalkeeper Steve Banks throwing himself full length to push aside a David Murphy free-kick while substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun, who added a different dimension with his willingness to take the ball in with his back to goal, twice went close to doubling Hibs' lead.
One goal, though, was all it took to make August 6 another memorable day for the green half of the city although Collins will reflect that during his, as yet, short tenure as manager, Hibs have played much better against their Capital rivals only to be left empty-handed.
All the key moments at Tynecastle
One minute: Hearts' first attempt at troubling Ma-Kalamaby as Stewart sees his strike goes high over the crossbar.
Two mins: GOAL: Hibs go one up after a long ball from Murphy finds Fletcher. His cross from the byline catches out Karipidis at the front post and Kerr connects to fire a bullet header past Banks and put the Hibees ahead.
15mins: A pinpoint cross from Rob Jones finds Zemmama on the flank. A neat one-two with Kerr sees the Moroccan chase the return into the area but the ball has just a little too much pace and goes out.
23mins: The first yellow card of the game as Donaldson is cautioned for a challenge on Mikoliunas.
26mins: The tension is starting to mount and Stewart is next to go in referee Stuart Dougal's book for a late tackle on Kerr
31mins: A Zaliukas header from a free-kick is confidently held by Ma-Kalamaby.
34mins: Hearts' best chance for an equaliser as Wallace knocks the ball back to Driver. The youngster can't believe it as Ma-Kalamby uses his foot to deflect the angled drive across goal wide of his left-hand post. To Hearts' disbelief, referee Dougal awards a goal kick.
35mins: Neilson is next to see yellow for a challenge on Donaldson on the right wing as the Hibs striker powered forward.
38mins: The game threatens to boil over as Karipidis is next to go in the book for a late challenge on Fletcher just inside the Hearts half.
46mins: Donaldson is replaced by Benji for Hibs
48mins: Stewart's free-kick goes five yards wide of Ma-Kalamaby's left hand post.
49mins: Hibs' Chris Hogg becomes the latest player to receive a caution.
54mins: Zemmama finds Benji and his powerful shot across goal goes just past the upright.
56mins: Fletcher is replaced by O'Brien for Hibs
59mins: Jonsson replaces Tall for Hearts
64mins: Benji is upended outside the area and Banks pulls off a fantastic save from Murphy from the resultant free-kick
66mins: Makela replaces Mikoliunas, with the Hearts management team feeling the wrath of the home fans.
69mins: A good link-up between McCann, Zemmama and Benji sees the striker again come very close to making it two for Hibs, his strike just marginally wide.
69mins: Beniusis sees a mistimed header flick back to Ma-Kalamaby and the new signing's debut to forget ends a minute later when he makes way for Pospisil, with the home fans letting him know exactly what they think of his performance.
72mins: Driver sees his low drive look set for goal but Ma-Kalamaby is on hand to gather safely.
75mins: Zemmama is replaced by Morais.
85mins: Pospisil finds Makela with a probing ball and the Finn races in on goal but the flag is up and Ma-Kalamby saves nonetheless.
90mins: Full time and the Hibs support is in raptures after starting the season with a win at Tynecastle.
Taken from the Scotsman
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