London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Wed 08 Nov 2006 Hibernian 1 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Eduard Malofeev <-auth David Hardie auth-> Calum Murray
[R Jones 32]
9 of 009 ----- LC A

Collins salutes Hibee heroics


Hibs 1 Hearts 0

JOHN COLLINS didn't enjoy the best of luck as a player in Edinburgh derbies, a mere three wins in 24 attempts, so there was little doubt he was going to celebrate this one.

Punching the air with delight, the new Hibs boss strode onto the Easter Road pitch on the final whistle to greet each and everyone of his players with a hug.

And who could blame him? In only his second match in charge of his old club he'd seen his players totally outclass their Capital rivals, the only question being why Hibs marched into the semi-finals of the CIS Cup with only Rob Jones' first-half strike to show for their efforts.

Rarely will you see such a one-sided derby decided by so narrow a margin but, as Collins observed afterwards, "One was enough."

One was certainly enough to bury a dismal Hearts outfit torn once again by internal unrest - if pre-match rumours were true that French star Julien Brellier had stormed out of the away dressing room and into a taxi on learning that his services were, once again, not required.

Hearts problems, of course, are of no concern to Collins or his players, the Hibs boss keen to focus on the fact that it was not so much that the side from the other side of the city had been poor, but that his players had been "fantastic" to a man. He said: "I thought we played ever so well. We started the game well, had a few near misses. It should have been more but one was enough to put us into the semi-finals.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it, my second game in charge, a quarter-final against Hearts, it was special, and you have to enjoy those moments."

Collins' enjoyment might have been enhanced had Hibs been able to add to Jones' goal, the towering centre-half lashing the ball high into the net after the Hearts central defenders Steven Pressley and Christophe Berra both missed Merouane Zemmama's corner and goalkeeper Craig Gordon could only palm away Chris Killen's shot.

Gordon may have hung his head in horror after gifting Celtic that late winner in Glasgow at the weekend, but the Scotland star kept his side in the game with a superb instinctive save seven minutes later, standing his ground as Scott Brown and Zemmama played a delightful one-two only for the former's parting shot to clip the outside of Gordon's right boot and go wide.

Memories of how Hibs have been unable to hang onto a one-goal lead were all too vivid for the green and white army, conscious of how they'd even managed to surrender a two-goal advantage to their rivals at the same venue a couple of weeks ago.

And while he's only been manager for less than a fortnight, Collins was also only too familiar with the script having seen Kilmarnock hit back to claim a 2-2 draw just days earlier.

He said: "Yes, it is at the back of your mind when you miss chances that they can come back and haunt you as happened on Saturday. Had we scored a second goal it would have been more a more enjoyable end to the match. There was a bit of tension on the bench and the boys did get a little bit anxious towards the end when Hearts got a couple of corners.

"But we never looked in any danger. The defence was terrific and Zibi Malkowski played ever so well."

A one-goal lead is, of course, always a precarious position to be in but, if truth be told, Hibs were rarely in danger, Hearts failing to put one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes while it took them an astonishing 68 minutes to claim the first of their three corners. All this in the knowledge that the confidence of Hibs goalkeeper Malkowski was fragile following his blunders in the previous derby and again at the weekend. Apart from one early mix-up between Shelton Martis and Jones as they went for Jose Goncalves long throw, though, there was nothing to trouble Hibs.

Indeed, full-backs Steven Whittaker and David Murphy spent much of the match as auxiliary wingers, charging forward when the occasion presented itself as they stretched Hearts time and again.

And if Hibs were handicapped by the early loss of Michael Stewart, hurt in a clash with Marius Zaliukas, the enforced change was seamless, Guillaume Beuzelin stepping into midfield to orchestrate proceedings. But to Collins his players were heroes all. He said: "I am proud of them, they were fantastic. We had a game plan we had been working on in training, they stuck to it and everyone got their rewards."

Had Hearts actually played so poorly? Not to Collins mind, the Hibs boss insisting the gulf between the sides on the night was down to what his players did rather than what the opposition did not do.

He said: "We made it very difficult, as soon as they got possession we hunted in packs, that's what we had been working on, pressing and making it difficult for them when they had possession.

"When you press together as a unit then inevitably they give the ball back to you. For me the team played fantastically, all of them.

"I would not like to pick anyone out, it was a team performance and, at the end of the day, that's what will win us things and help us climb up the table, not individual performances."

Collins was also delighted with the temperament of his players as the tackles began to fly in as Hearts tried, in vain, to impose themselves on the match. He said: "That played a big part.

"Sometimes you get carried away and let your emotions take over and that's when you lose your discipline and that can cost you.

"But I thought we were terrific, we kept our cool but at the same time showed the aggression and passion to win the tackles."

With Rangers exiting the competition thanks to a shock defeat to First Division St Johnstone just 24 hours after Old Firm rivals and CIS Cup holders Celtic were knocked out on penalties by Falkirk, Collins knows a piece of silverware is very much within Hibs' grasp.

But he urged caution, saying: "Who would have thought two nights ago that Celtic and Rangers would both be out.

"It's a great opportunity for one of the four of us (Hibs, Kilmarnock, Falkirk and St Johnstone) to go and win the Cup. I am sure everyone will fancy their chances."

Taken from the Scotsman

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