London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth David Hardie auth-> John Rowbotham
[G O'Connor 68] ;[D Shiels 73]
12 of 018 Lee Miller 39 L SPL H

Don't dust off your passports yet

at Tynecastle


JUST as the taunts that there would be "no Hibs in Europe" which rang round Tynecastle ultimately proved premature, Tony Mowbray was today refusing to take a place in next season’s UEFA Cup for granted.

However, no matter what the Easter Road boss has to say, he won’t prevent an army of Hibees dusting down their passports in anticipation of a European adventure or two.

As Mowbray pointed out, there are still six matches to be played with all sorts of twists and turns to come. But as things stand it is hard to see Hibs relinquishing their grip on third place after their first win in Gorgie in almost six years, a victory which not only pushes them eight points clear of their arch-rivals but four ahead of Aberdeen, the side closest to them in the SPL table.

If the trip across the city was being billed as a test of the resolve and character of Mowbray’s young side in the wake of their disappointing Tennent’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Dundee United, then his players produced an emphatic answer for the sceptics - yet again.

But for 45 minutes it looked as if those suggesting Hibs had lost their sparkle at just the wrong time of the season were going to be proved correct, Hearts snatching the lead through the precocious Lee Miller, his header badly misjudged by goalkeeper Simon Brown as it spun up off the turf and beyond his flailing right hand.

It was a goal Hearts deserved by dint of the pressure John Robertson’s players had exerted from the first whistle with Hibs rarely able to break out and threaten Gordon at the other end.

As referee John Rowbotham sounded the half-time whistle few - even among those draped in green and white - would have given much for Hibs’ chances of over-turning that lead such had been the home side’s dominance.

But that’s exactly what Hibs did, as Hearts skipper Steven Pressley ducked his responsibilities in allowing a speculative cross from substitute Amadou Konte to go over his head, an act which caused confusion between Gordon and defender Jason Thomson.

As a result the ball fell at the feet of Garry O’Connor who had the easy task of stroking it into the empty net to claim his 17th goal of the season and his first at Tynecastle. Suddenly, it was Hearts who were rattled and when Konte’s header struck Gordon’s right-hand post there was midfield star Dean Shiels to rifle the ball high into the net for what proved to be the winning goal.

As you’d expect, Hearts hit back but their response was all too predictable, thrusting Kevin McKenna on as a makeshift centre-forward, a role which is hardly unfamiliar to the Canadian defender.

But despite being subjected to an aerial bombardment, Hibs, with Gary Caldwell and Gary Smith immense in the middle of the back four, stood firm even during those nervy four minutes of additional time which brought memories of that 4-4 draw two years ago in Gorgie flooding into the mind of each and every one of their fans.

Mowbray, naturally, was delighted to clinch his first derby win at the third attempt but as much as he and his players enjoyed the moment, the Hibs boss already had his eye on what’s to come as he refused to concede the battle for Europe was over.

He said: "It does make it more difficult for Hearts but at the same time they are going to have another opportunity in a few weeks when they’ll come to Easter Road.

But we feel we have a pretty decent record at home this season. We have made it more difficult for them but we have another tough game at the weekend when we need to keep picking up points. We are looking forward to the challenge of playing the next six games and seeing if we can finish third.

"Nothing has been achieved at the moment. We have six massive games to go and as we have seen already this season points can disappear very, very quickly and there can be big swings.

"We have to keep our feet on the ground and while we’ll enjoy this one we have another game on Saturday against Livingston when another three points are on offer.

"All we have done is give ourselves an opportunity, we’ve made it more difficult for one of our main contenders but there’s a lot of hard work to be done." Mowbray also admitted that his side "hadn’t turned up" in the first half in which Hearts threatened to trim Hibs’ advantage to a mere two points, but goal hero O’Connor revealed it was the manager’s half-time pep talk which led to the remarkable transformation in fortunes.

The Scotland striker said: "Hearts deserved to be 1-0 up but I thought we were tremendous in the second half, We tried to get the ball down and play which was difficult at times but once we scored I thought there was only going to be one winner.

"We still believed at half-time that we could get back into the game - we couldn’t get any worse to be honest. But the boss told us we had to stand up, be men, that we had to stand up and be counted.

"We did that and if we keep playing like that until the end of the season then I am sure we will finish third."

Hearts boss Robertson moaned afterwards that both Hibs skipper Ian Murray and striker Derek Riordan should have been sent off for second bookable offences.

He may have had a case in the instance of Murray who launched an ill-advised challenge on Pressley but Riordan was guilty of no more of cheekily trying to rob Gordon as he made a clearance in an incident reminiscent of George Best against England’s Gordon Banks all those years ago.

In any case Mowbray saw the warning signs, replacing both rather than risk playing out the last half-hour with ten men while still a goal down.

He said: "It would have been a big ask to come back with ten men. The game at times, being a derby, got a little heated. Both had been booked and my thought was to make sure we continued the game with 11 men."

And Mowbray felt the victory went some way not only to making amends for the disappointment of Hampden but for the previous derby at Easter Road in which Hibs were forced to settle for a point after scorning a host of chances.

He said: "We thought we had done enough to take three points in that game but it’s been five or six yeas since we went to Tynecastle and won so it was great for all the players who were desperate to give the fans something back after the weekend. Hopefully we have done that and there will be a lot of happy Hibees about today."

Taken from the Scotsman

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