London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Douglas McDonald
[D Riordan 22]
25 of 025 Paul Hartley 55 L SPL A

Hardy Hearts make their point as new year starts with a bang


HEARTS supporters may not have celebrated the derby triumph they craved to toast the start of 2005 - but they could at least raise a glass to a hard-earned point at Easter Road.

Had the visitors believed much of the pre-match hype, they’d have been forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much point in heading across the Capital to watch their favourites in action.

The odds seemed stacked in favour of Tony Mowbray’s in-form Hibees, the hosts having gone into the clash riding high in third place in the SPL with an impressive run of form seeing them open up a nine-point advantage over yesterday’s first footers in Leith.

Their arch-rivals, wracked by the uncertainty enveloping the futures of so many out-of-contract stars amid Vladimir Romanov’s stalled takeover, had been struggling to fire on all cylinders in recent weeks.

The sensible money was therefore on Hibs to avenge the Tynecastle defeat in October and from the moment Derek Riordan took full advantage of a fortunate ricochet off Dean Shiels’ shin to rattle home his 13th goal of the season with 24 minutes on the clock, the Jambos indeed looked to be facing the uphill struggle predicted by many observers.

However, some straight-talking from boss John Robertson during the interval and a brave change of system galvanised his under- performing troops and saw Hearts come roaring back.

Having been culpable at the opener after being dispossessed by Stephen Glass, Paul Hartley emerged as the main man for the Jambos in the second period with the kind of forceful display from the middle of the park which has taken him to the brink of full international honours.

Both teams - Hibs more so than Hearts - were guilty of failing to make the most of their chances and as a result had to settle for a share of the spoils. But not until after another Capital showdown packed full of the drama, excitement and controversy which has become something of a trademark of the fixture in recent seasons.

Former Hibee Hartley, in fact, was involved in the game’s major talking point in the 47th minute after a trademark burst sliced open the home defence. Played in by Phil Stamp, the midfielder was racing clearing of David Murphy towards the Hibs box when he appeared to be caught by the full-back.

A clear professional foul, or so the Hearts players thought, and they were enraged when referee Dougie McDonald waved play on. Murphy could well have been deemed the last man in denying a clear goalscoring opportunity but the official ignored the Jambos’ pleas.

Now, McDonald and Hearts appear to go as well together as Lithuanians and takeovers and it’s not the first time the official has incensed the Gorgie outfit.

Former boss Craig Levein was involved in a well-documented row with the Scottish Football Association over his criticism of McDonald during a league game at Kilmarnock while the same whistler left Robertson bemused with his decision to allow Jean-Alain Boumsong to stay on the park after penalising the Frenchman for hauling down Mark de Vries in the six-yard box during Rangers’ 3-2 win at Ibrox six weeks ago.

It has become a recurring theme after Hearts games these days but Robertson clearly feels his side isn’t getting the rub of the green from officials. He also thought De Vries had been denied a penalty against Celtic at Tynecastle on Boxing Day.

"Paul got in front of the Hibs defender and was through on goal so why would he go down?" he said.

"Whether the contact was accidental or not, it was a goalscoring opportunity and possibly a red card.

"Dougie McDonald called it as he saw it but once again a wee break didn’t go our way. That’s the second big call in two or three weeks which hasn’t gone our way.

"I don’t know what it is at the moment but we’re not getting many breaks from the referees. I asked Dougie about the incident and he said the ball was behind Paul, the covering defender was getting to him and that any contact was accidental. When we saw it on the screen, though, the ball was two yards in front of Paul Hartley and no defender was going to get to him.

"There was a clip and we’re not getting the breaks just now. But there is no point in moaning.

"The players could have been niggled by the decision but that didn’t happen and we went on to outplay them at that point."

Clearly anxious to atone for his first-half error, Hartley had his side’s best opening in the 50th minute when Graham Weir’s pass presented him with a golden opportunity from seven yards out, the midfielder lacking his usual accuracy with a header which flew over the bar.

Five minutes later, though, and Hartley was celebrating his first derby goal for the Jambos.

A trademark long throw from Robbie Neilson found Weir in the box and he did well to prod the ball into the path of his team-mate who supplied a simple finish from close range.

Momentum had swung in Hearts’ favour and two minutes later only the woodwork prevented them from going behind as Andy Webster’s header from Neilson’s free-kick came crashed back of Simon Brown’s right-hand post.

Neilson then sliced a shot wide from good position before Brown got down well to held a Stamp drive as Hearts looked to get their noses in front.

Their failure to capitalise on their domination, though, almost proved costly as Mowbray’s outfit snatched back the initiative.

The impressive Gordon did superbly to claw away Sam Morrow’s close-range header with the goal at the substitute’s mercy, while Hibs carved out a handful of chances in the closing 16 minutes.

Steven Whittaker, Morrow, Garry O’Connor and Shiels will all think they should have done better, while Gordon produced a fine tip-over to keep out Riordan’s 30-yard free-kick in the final moments.

"I spoke to the boys at half-time about having the bottle to show what it meant to them and the club and I thought we were magnificent in the first 25 minutes of the second half," said Robertson.

"We scored the equaliser, hit the post and looked to kill them off. But we didn’t get the second goal and Hibs then came back into to it and had a few chances in the last 15 minutes to win the game.

"A draw was probably the right result but I am sure Tony and myself probably rue the spells we were very much on top but couldn’t get the goal to go in front.

"It was a real battling derby with a magnificent effort from both teams. There was a lot of good football and I don’t think anyone who came to watch the game will have been left disappointed."

Taken from the Scotsman

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