We shall start with Hibs and what went wrong in the match today.
It was clear to see that the Hearts side were composed of better players and that is plainly obvious to see. Inexperience is not an issue in this Hibs side as they all have a good number of professional games under their belts. The side simply is not good enough and Pat Fenlon has reiterated his desire to bring in more quality in the transfer window.
He said: “If we can add a little bit of quality over January then we should be okay. We’ve got to work at both ends. We’ve got to stop conceding goals and see if we can score a few more.”
And it is highly apparent that Hibs need to invest in new players to match the ambition of the infrastructure in place at the club. Despite scoring a goal Hibs had no shots on target which will worry the supporters.
In the first half, the two wingers were not giving Griffiths enough support and they were too deep to mount a serious attack. Matters were not helped when Galbraith appeared to lose all his composure and send strikes hopelessly wide.
Hibs were in the ascendancy in the second half and Fenlon failed to capitalise on that by not making a substitution which would bring goals. Both O’Connor and Doyle were resigned to no more than five minutes each and they are arguably the biggest threat Hibs could have posed to the Hearts defence. It was a poor managerial decision to wait until the dying breaths of the game to bring on two strikers.
The defence looked equally as poor and they provided no real cover for the impressive Stack. Booth, who was dropped earlier in the season for poor defending, laid off an awful back pass for Stack in the goals, which led to a penalty for Hearts.
The defence was caught out for the second goal when Webster lost his marker with no real effort and also the third goal. Skacel was level with the Hibs defenders when he started his run and this was not tracked. If it was not for Stack then the score line would have looked even worse for the home side.
Hibs have however shown character since Fenlon replaced Calderwood and it is clear that there is more spirit in the squad, but spirit is not enough when the club you play for is in a relegation battle.
In terms of key decisions the referee and assistants were poor in calling them correctly. Ryan McGowan should have been red carded for violent conduct and Sproule should have been booked for the foul on him. Despite going down too easily the intent was clearly there in the middle of a red-hot derby and it will be interesting to see if the compliance officer acts on these incidents.
There is no doubt that the first Hearts goal should not have stood. Elliot was standing in the centre of the six yard box and obscuring the view of the ball Stack had. The Hearts striker was interfering with play and this should have been noticed by the officials. And even further back a penalty was denied for Hibs despite the foul on Griffiths being apparent.
The officials coupled with a poor Hibs performance in front of goal led to the defeat today. Poor managerial decisions are also to blame for the result and these will improve over time as Fenlon gets a grip of the Scottish game.
Hearts hardly excelled like they did against Celtic, Dunfermline and Motherwell this season, but they did not have to. Despite losing Mehdi Taouil to a suspected hamstring injury there was no black spot on the proceedings.
Collectively as a unit the team performed efficiently and that was all that was needed against a poor side. Templeton continued to impress on the wing and hit the post as well, as Hearts continued their current derby streak.
The defence contained the Hibs forwards with ease for most of the game, apart from a spell where Hibs were the team in control of the game. The threats posed by the pace of Sproule and the trickery of Griffiths were heavily outclassed and outmuscled by the imposing Hearts defence.
Ian Black was impressive in bossing the midfield as well for Hearts. His strike at goal and subsequent corner allowed Hearts to take the lead. His work-rate is of a high standard and for the most part he left Martin Scott wallowing in his shadow. Black even had the courtesy of wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I’ll paint this place maroon’ after the game.
Hearts will struggle to keep key players at the club, with Cardiff rumoured to be interested in Templeton, Southampton are keen on Driver and Stevenson looks like he will be leaving due to the financial constraints.
Paulo Sergio did not even attempt to mask the fact that the club are looking to offload players in January.
He commented: “I know if we have a good proposition to sell, what I believe is we have to sell. I know our players have other clubs looking at them because they are playing well. It’s normal that other clubs will show that they want our players, too. I believe we’re going to have a hard January with all those movements. Each day is a challenge for us to see what is happening.”
There was no doubt today that the team that deserved to win snatched the points. All refereeing errors aside, to not even muster a single attempt on goal at home in a derby match is pitiful and the Hibs fans will be displeased at the lack of potency in the attacking third.
All that remains to be seen is whether or not Hearts will have the same side come the next derby at Tynecastle and how many players are still on their books.
The match on the 17th March will be a different affair completely, but one thing will never change – the excitement brought about by these entertaining clashes.