I was at Tynecastle recently for a historic occasion (there was even a special cover on the souvenir programme) – the first league meeting of Hearts and Hibs outside the top flight.
Given Hearts domination of this fixture, and the fact that Hearts fans can remember their team winning the Scottish Cup, there’s not a lot for Hibs fans to gloat at their rivals about.
When Hearts were given a points deduction last season and virtually condemned to relegation, Hibs even managed to mess that one up, and get relegated themselves.
My previous visit to Tynecastle was in 2011, a European match against Tottenham Hotspur. Teams like Tottenham Hotspur are off the agenda for Hearts these days, it’s all about teams like Alloa, Dumbarton and Cowedenbeath, with games against Rangers and Hibs adding a deceptive glamour to life in the second tier.
I’d previously been to an Edinburgh Derby, in 2012, at Easter Road. It was easy enough to get a ticket for that game, with Hibs fans still suffering doom and gloom from their 5-1 drubbing in that year’s Scottish Cup Final.
With a new wave of positivity around Hearts as they aim for promotion, and an opening day win at Ibrox, getting a ticket for this was going to be hard, I used the tactic of standing around the ticket office hoping that someone would be selling, and I got lucky, behind the goal where Hearts fans are based.
For the first-half, Hibs were the better team without dominating. Hearts fans knew it, and were nervous. For all their possession, Hibs weren’t dominant, but looked the most likely to score. Towards the end of the first-half, Hibs got a golden opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton, making his debut.
It was a soft penalty. From where I was, I thought it was a penalty. Having looked back at TV replays, i’m not so sure. It didn’t matter as Liam Craig missed. He properly missed it, wide of the post, not even forcing Hamilton into a save.
There is something about Hibs, that their inability to take an opportunity to them like this didn’t even come as a surprise.
Hearts fans celebrated the miss as if it was a goal, and it brought new life to Hearts. What few attacks Hearts had in the first-half came through Sam Nicholson.
Hearts improved in the second-half, but no matter how hard both teams, now attacking goals with their fans behind, tried, it looked set to be a 0-0 draw. Hibs fans urged their team on by chanting “Alan Stubbs Green and White Army”, tho which Hearts fans countered with “There’s Only One Terry Butcher”, a tribute to the manager who took Hibs down.
The game changed in a five minute spell. Sam Nicholson nutmegged a defender to give himself some space and score from outside the box.
I was right behind that goal. As soon as he hit it, you knew it was going in. Tynecastle went wild. Within minutes, Hearts won a penalty when Prince Buaben was fouled by Scott Robertson. Buaben was going nowhere. To further rub it in for Hibs, Robertson got a second yellow. A quite spectacular capitulation by Hibs.
Buaben casually strode up, and put the penalty into the net. Game over.
A few minutes later, Osman Sow was sent-off for an elbow, making it ten a side.
In injury time, some slack defending by Hearts, Farid El Alahui made it 2-1. There was still two minutes of injury time to go. Suddenly, it was the Hearts fans who were nervous.
The problem for Hibs was, they couldn’t get the ball, as Hearts played the ball to the corner flag, winning throw-ins, much to Hibs players frustrations, whose fiesty tackling and response from Hearts players threatened to have the game boil over.
Hibs couldn’t get another chance and Hearts held on for the win. New division, same Hearts domination.
As I walked out of the stadium, I overheard a conversation between two Hearts fans, once of whom expressed his surprised that there were Hibs fans leaving with the score at 1-0, and plenty of time in the game to go.
His friend simply responded, “They know”