Elvis rocks Hibs' revival
Published Date: 17 March 2002
By Andrew Smith
SINCE assuming the reins at Easter Road, Bobby Williamson has guided Hibs out of a spot of bother. But last night they were undone by a spot-kick that bothered them greatly as Hearts triumphed in a capital derby at the home of their neighbours for the first time since August 1997.
An encounter in which Craig Levein's side ultimately produced the more enterprising football, the visitors ran-out winners courtesy of a 87th-minute penalty that was awarded after a clumsy challenge by Gary Caldwell led to Ricardo Fuller eating turf in the box and referee Willie Young pointing to the spot. An incensed Colgan remonstrated with the Jamaican for what he believed was a dive. The Hibs keeper was later sent off in the tunnel after the game. Before that, though, he had failed to produce the dive he required, Stephen Pressley hammering the ball beyond him from 12 yards.
It was Hibs who had drawn first blood through a fifth minute strike from Garry O'Connor, but the balance shifted towards the visitors even before Scott Severin put Hearts back on level terms in the 41st minute. There is an old adage about haircuts that runs along the lines of there being only two weeks between a bad one becoming a good one. Much the same could be offered about teams in the SPL and a curious statistic going into yesterday's Edinburgh derby was that Hibs, for all their recent travails, represented the form team of the two capital sides. The upturn in fortunes for the Easter Road men that had coincided with the arrival of Williamson, whose first fortnight in charge brought 3-0 wins over St Johnstone and Livingston, meant Hibs' record before the meeting with their local adversaries was only one defeat in five league encounters. In contrast, Hearts could count only one victory over the same span of SPL matches.
Maybe this accounted for Hibs opening with fire in their bellies. It took only until the fifth minute for them to ignite a confrontation that crackled with life throughout a breathless first 45 minutes. Hearts were, in part, architects of their own downfall in gifting their opponents a corner as the result of Antti Niemi and Scott Severein getting themselves into a fankle that resulted in the ball rolling behind the byeline.
Hibs made the most of the present with John O'Neil swinging over a corner that Gary Caldwell head-flicked towards the backpost where O'Connor was lurking. The young striker showed utter conviction in fastening on to the ball as it dropped from the evening sky before bashing an unstoppable effort into the net from eight yards. O'Connor remained alert and aggressive throughout the period, muscling his way into the box 13 minutes later only for Severin to stop him in his tracking with what could be deemed a goal-saving blocking tackle. He threatened again in the 21st minute when Antti Niemi was required to make a diving one-handed stop after the rampaging forward had been released by a pass from John O'Neil.
By then Levein's men gradually had begun to force their way into an encounter that had found them coming off second best in every department throughout in its initial stages by demonstrating an appetite and application to match that shown by their opponents. They first showed signs they could make inroads into the Hibs box when the unmarked Tommi Gronlund was picked out by a centre from Stephen Simmons only for the Scandanavian to pass up the opportunity presented by a free header in failing to find the target with a lame attempt.
In terms of power and defence-lacerating running when in possession of the ball, few have proved themselves so adept as Ricardo Fuller, who has added a striking dimension to the Hearts frontline since arriving on these shores from Caribbean side Tivola Gardens. He gave a masterclass in these aforementioned attributes in 35 minutes when dispossessing Alen Orman on the halfway line and making a beeline for goal that ended with the Jamaican lashing a shot wide.
By this stage Hearts had transformed the encounter, taking a grip that made an equaliser, if not expected, then eminently possible. When this arrived in the 41st minute it could not be begrudged. Again it was a strike fashioned from a corner, Steve Fulton's delivery causing all manner of panic in the Hibs box, several hacks from men in green failing to bring a clearance before Severin met the ball sweetly at the edge of the area to drive a low effort through a ruck of players and beyond the outstretched arm of the prostrate Colgan.
Levein threw on Thomas Flogel and Gary Wales in place of the ineffectual Stephen Simmons and Robert Sloan in the 59th minute of a blood and thunder confrontation that Hearts might have wrapped up if referee Willie Young had not missed Smith deliberately punching the ball when within his box 12 minutes from time. Justice was served in Hearts scoring their win with the Fuller award in the dying minutes, one that might have been considered soft.
Those who might have been considered soft in the head, though, were the Hibs fans passing out leaflets before the game proclaiming the formation of a Franck Sauzee Appreciation Society, this flier having the temerity to ask fans to send donation in order that a gift could be bought for the Frenchman whose spell in charge of the club lasted only 69 days and had been belittled by the successes enjoyed by his replacement Williamson prior to yesterday.
Mind you, the Hibs faithful might now cause to appreciate that Sauzee never lost at home to Hearts.
Taken from the Scotsman