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Edinburgh derby preview: Hearts spurred on by London show

Published Date: 28 August 2011
By Ed Hodge
AMID the doom and gloom that has again descended on Scottish football in recent days, came chinks of light at White Hart Lane on Thursday night.
Hearts, completely outclassed by Harry Redknapp's multi-millionaires a week previously, gave the type of dogged, spirited and, at times, polished display that what was so sadly lacking at Tynecastle.

It was all too late in the Europa League play-off tie, won 5-0 on aggregate by Spurs, but the fact Hearts' performance came from a shadow side, made up of a number of inexperienced players, only added to the sense of satisfaction for new manager Paulo Sergio. The Portuguese had taken a gamble by selecting a relatively untried team but he was vindicated. Yes, Spurs' biggest names sat idle on the bench or watched from the stand, but the vociferous 2,600 visiting fans still watched their team match a talented, hungry side which finished fifth in the Premiership last season.

Much was expected of Spurs' young debutants in the club's first home game of the season following the London riots, but it was Hearts who left with greater plaudits. According to left-back Danny Grainger, the Euro tussles could now work to Hearts' advantage in the first Edinburgh derby of the season this afternoon.

Sergio, not yet in the job a month, suddenly has selection options after a number of his fringe men caught the eye on Thursday. Hearts have also recorded back-to-back clean sheets. Furthermore, they boast a formidable derby record - Hibs have not won in the last seven encounters dating back to May 2009.

Grainger, who is in line for his derby debut following his summer move from St Johnstone, certainly hopes the home team maintain the competitive edge.

"We were outclassed in the first leg, which was very disappointing, but we went down to London and showed we have good strength in depth," he noted. "I thought Gordon Smith was fantastic, he was very unlucky in the first half not to get a goal. I thought he led the line fantastically and Scott Robinson has been great the last few games. It doesn't look as though anything fazes him.

"The boys will take confidence now into the derby, after a good performance against Kilmarnock and then at Spurs. Thursday has definitely given us a boost.

"If you look at the quality of player we played against, you don't come up against many better than them.

"We've now kept two clean sheets on the bounce and the boys look sharp at the other end of the pitch as well."

For Grainger, White Hart Lane was the kind of occasion that emphatically endorsed his summer switch.

Scottish club football is perhaps at a low ebb, certainly in the context of Thursday's European results, but Grainger, 25, is not the type to be downbeat, especially when the big games keep coming.

"When Hearts offered me a contract, I couldn't wait to sign it and these big games are the reason why," he explains. "It's been a chance to go and play at grounds like White Hart Lane and now in the derby. The lads have filled me in about it, said it's something else. I never played in the Dundee derby when I was at United, so the closest I've come to a derby is Dundee-St Johnstone. It's always nice to get a win over your closest rivals.

"The boys say the Edinburgh game is one of the best around. I think there were a few lads tired on Thursday night, but they don't get any bigger than the derby so I'm sure adrenaline will kick in and we will be fine."

Sergio admits he is "doing a pre-season competitively", such is the spate of matches he is encountering while still trying to uncover his best XI. That has given the entire Tynecastle playing staff a clean slate, a fact not lost on winger Arvydas Novikovas, another who impressed at Tottenham. The Lithuanian, 20, said: "I felt good, I did everything asked of me from the coach. I defended well to protect my friends and I tried to create. Hopefully, I now have a chance for the derby. I think we showed in London that we can play football, pass the ball and create chances. I think the result helped change people's minds of Scottish football, because we showed that we can play."

Taken from the Scotsman

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