Hearts went into the New Year derby employing the 4-2-3-1 that has brought about a tremendous nine game unbeaten run and Colin Calderwood set up his Hibs side in a 4-3-3 with Derek Riordan and Darryl Duffy hugging the touchline and playing high up the pitch, keeping Hearts full backs Eggert Jonsson and Ruben Palazuelos pinned back. Ian Murray was deployed as a deep defensive midfielder whose sole purpose was to stop Skacel from playing, which was effective for the most part. Hibs defended well for the majority of the match, a marked improvement from their recent displays, and successfully neutralising the threat of in-form winger David Templeton.
Jonsson Bouzid Zaliukas Palazuelos
Elliot Skacel Templeton
Riordan Trakys Duffy
Miller De Graff
Grounds Hanlon Dickoh Thicot
The match began with Hearts dominating possession, while regularly resorting to long balls towards Kevin Kyle, and without creating too many chances. While Hibs seemed intent on bringing Hearts players down, picking up three bookings in the first half hour. Black was the one player singled out by the Hibs players but managed to recover from an early blow from Ian Murray, which left him unconscious, to put in a solid performance. In fact, he may have even earned himself the man of the match award had it not been for a sloppy last twenty minutes.
Hearts continued to dominate possession in the second half but in fairness, both teams had chances to win the match. Francis Dickoh could only poke the ball wide unmarked from close range after a Riordan freekick and substitute Colin Nish pulled his shot just wide after finding himself in space down the right channel. At the other end, Hibs goalkeeper Mark Brown pulled off two quality saves, most notably from Rudi Skacel’s freekick.
But it was one half of a double substitution on seventy-nine minutes that proved the difference. The relatively ineffective pair David Templeton and Calum Elliot were replaced by Arvydas Novikovas and Gary Glen and within five minutes Novikovas was sent down the left by Skacel and beat the slow Steven Tichot to the ball to fire in a marvellous low cross on to the foot of Glen at the back post, only for the young striker to shoot wide.
Two minutes later, Novikovas picked up the ball wide on the half way line, beat Murray and Dickoh then whipped in a cross that was bulleted into the net by the head of Kyle at the back post via the gloves of Mark Brown. That goal proved to be the winner, although Hibs had a decent penalty shout turned down almost immediately after – the ball was certainly played onto the hand of Ismael Bouzid as Riordan attempted to play the ball into the box, however, some refs have given them before since Bouzid’s hand could have been deemed in an ‘unnatural’ position.
Overall, Hibs managed to nullify the threat of Hearts’s key danger men in Skacel and Templeton, but their central defensive pairing were unable to cope with the bustling Kyle. Hearts were all too keen to hit the ball long to the 6’5” striker but managed to dominate the midfield area when the ball ended up there. Adrian Mroweic broke up Hibs’s play effectively, and displayed some creative spark going forward. Hearts created the vast majority of the chances; Hibs rarely threatened but may have stolen the three points had one of their late chances gone in before Kyle converted the decisive opportunity.
Hearts are now unbeaten in the last eight derbies, winning the last four, have now gone nine matches unbeaten, including eight wins, and now sit three point off the top of the league in third place. Rangers and Celtic both have games in hand, however, at least one of them must drop points in today’s Old Firm derby.
Star man: Adrian Mroweic