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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth auth-> William Collum
[D Riordan 79]
6 of 007 Andrew Driver 22 ;Gary Glen 26L SPL H

Hearts 2-1 Hibs: Even JJ couldn't have pictured this

Published Date: 22 March 2010
PICTURE the pre-match scene in the home dressing room. The Hibs team sheet arrives minus the name of Chris Hogg, with Paul Hanlon merely a substitute. The craggy features of Jim Jefferies would surely have taken on a wry smile as the realisation of what was about to happen dawned.
That said, even the Hearts manager could not have predicted the dominance which characterised this Edinburgh derby victory. The hosts' advantage undoubtedly became an aerial one with Hogg and Hanlon both unfit, David Obua in particular causing endless trouble with headers and flicks which Hibs centre-backs Sol Bamba and Ian Murray had no answer to. Indeed, given the control exerted by Hearts, who missed two priceless chances in the second half, Jefferies was correct in stating that 2-1 "flattered" the visitors.

Even before assessing the opposition personnel, he took three pre-match gambles of his own by reinstating Andy Driver, Ian Black and Ruben Palazuelos to the team following injury. Although Black had to be withdrawn in the first half through concussion – centre-back Dawid Kucharski also left the field injured – Driver and Palazuelos excelled and fully justified their manager's bravery.

A supplement to the victory for Jefferies was getting one over on John Hughes, pictured, the Hibs manager whom he coached at Berwick Rangers and Falkirk. Hughes' record against Jefferies throughout his managerial career now reads: Played 16, Won 2.

At full-time he said he had "no complaints" regarding the final outcome, but he would argue that selection problems hindered him even before kick-off. Aside from failing to cope with the aerial threat at set-pieces, Hibs' five-man midfield was simply overrun by Hearts' more imposing quartet.

Even enforced reorganisation could not deter a home side which at times seemed to be foaming at the mouth in search of more goals. They played most of the match with Eggert Jonsson and Lee Wallace at centre-back, Palazuelos at left-back and Larry Kingston and Ryan Stevenson anchoring central midfield. The makeshift back four were rarely troubled by a toothless visiting attack, while at the other end maroon shirts were queuing up to score.

"It should have been all over, 4-0 or 5-0 would not have flattered us," said Jefferies. "We had three opportunities in a ten-minute spell at the start of the second half but their goal got them back in the game. Ruben didn't block the cross (from David Wotherspoon] but you can't blame him.

"We took a gamble with him Black and Driver. I felt they would give us the experience but I thought I'd have to take them off. The two injuries upset us. Black didn't want to come off but we asked him how many times he had gone down. He said once, but it was twice. He thought he was only off the pitch once, which tells you there was concussion there. The medical people insisted we take him off. If he can't remember how many times he' been off he might not know where he is. We were asking questions and if he doesn't remember it's the old Maracana one: Tell him he's Pele and send him back on. But we couldn't do that.

"Wallace was great in defence, Palazuelos was great at left-back and I thought the second half was Ryan Stevenson's best performance from us, he was outstanding in the middle of the park. I saw in the dressing room after the game that it was pandemonium.

"I said the score flattered Hibs, that proves we have it in us to make chances. Keep doing that and we'll keep scoring. There's no way we didn't deserve to win, it would have been a travesty if we'd dropped points."

Driver capitalised on 24 minutes to open the scoring with a powerful shot high into the net after substitute Suso's cross struck Graham Stack's left post and landed at the winger's feet. Three minutes later, Driver's corner was headed goalwards by Jonsson and Gary Glen head-flicked it past Stack with a piece of predatory opportunism reminiscent of John Robertson at his best.

Hibs' disarray was exemplified moments later when Stack emerged from his penalty box to head clear and barely made contact. Hearts failed to capitalise but at 2-0 it seemed the visitors would become lambs to the slaughter. That they didn't was simply down to profligate Hearts finishing.

The second half was only 90 seconds old when Suso, with the goal gaping, somehow managed to flick Obua's cross over the crossbar from four yards. On 53 minutes Glen exchanged passes with Obua to charge through the rearguard and confront Stack one-on-one. He rightly tried to dribble round the goalkeeper but his touch was heavy and the ball ran harmlessly wide for a goal kick. Stack then stopped a header from Glen and a drive from Stevenson as most observers began to wonder if Hearts would be made to rue their inability to kill the game dead. When Derek Riordan converted Wotherspoon's cross on 79 minutes, it seemed like they might be. Riordan acknowledged this with a few expletives in the direction of Hearts fans during his celebration. But Hibs' attacking had almost petered out and they could not fashion a late equaliser. For Jefferies, it was a welcome return to Edinburgh's footballing rivalry after his last derby, a 6-2 defeat at Easter Road.

"We lost by four goals ten years ago but I've beaten them by four goals before at Easter Road," he said.

"Winning was the important thing. We were hanging on but we didn't sit back and defend 2-1. We went forward and tried to make it three, that was the right attitude. This augurs well if we can keep the desire and the will to attack." Jefferies explained that Driver and Palazuelos had taken some convincing that they were sufficiently fit to start the match after respective knee problems. "I had to get into wee Andrew's head a bit and tell him that Hibs would be worried if he was playing. I might have been proved right. Wotherspoon was played further forward and I had to convince him this was his day. He said he'd leave the decision up to me and as soon as he said that he was in the team.

"Ruben said he'd be better coming off the bench and I said we've not got time for that. You're better on there and then coming off. Blackie was keen, he was keen the week before but we had to be careful."

Jefferies' decisions were fully vindicated in a game which doubtless fuelled Hearts' aspirations of catching their city rivals in the SPL and perhaps even submitting a late bid for European qualification.

Taken from the Scotsman

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