THE fall of Hibernian has become a car crash:
horrible and compelling in equal measure. In the latest evidence that this team are out of their depth in the SPFL Premiership, they lost again - that is six in a row - and suffered the indignity of being figures of fun even to opponents who have been relegated and remain in administration.
Only a month ago Hibs supporters were at Tynecastle gleefully hoping for the victory which would condemn Hearts to relegation. Their team let them down then and have carried on doing so every week. How the tables have turned. "We're only here for the party," sang the jubilant Hearts fans before kick-off this time and, by God, they got one.
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They have had several weeks to reconcile themselves to relegation and a future in the Championship. They came to enjoy what might be the last derby for a while, come what may. For Hibs, the fear of relegation is casting a growing, darkening shadow.
Some seem to have given up on them already. The Hearts end was full here but there were lots of empty seats around the home stands and the numbers thinned even further when Callum Paterson scored twice in five minutes at the end of the first half. Two crosses, two headers, two examples of inept Hibs defending. Even when they play a little better than usual, as they did in this frenetic derby, the fundamentals let them down.
Hearts have owned the derby this season. This was their fourth win out of five, three in the league and one in the League Cup. Supposedly at their weakest, down and out, they repeatedly have been too strong for Hibs.
With every passing week the odds shorten on both Edinburgh clubs being in the second tier next season. Hibs have sunk lower and lower thanks to the worst form in the division.
If Hearts had not been deducted 15 points for being in administration they would now be on level points with Hibs, and they have won more league games.
Terry Butcher now gets the treatment from Hearts fans, his name replacing Pat Fenlon's as they chant in mock appreciation. Butcher inherited Fenlon's poor team and results under him have been even worse. They did not lack effort or aggression yesterday, which has often been the case during this shocking run of 10 league games without a win.
But there is neither confidence nor quality. They conceded soft goals and missed the half-chances they made. Kevin Thomson led them well in midfield but overall they are profoundly mediocre.
When Jordon Forster converted Ryan McGivern's cross with a header they had their first goal in 456 minutes of play. In that time they had conceded 11 including the two from Paterson, which were predictably depressing for Butcher. For the second game running a team scored against Hibs with its first chance of the game, the only difference being St Mirren took 12 seconds and Hearts 36 minutes.
Billy King's corner was met by Paterson and his downward header bounced up and over Liam Craig to sneak in at the back post. Soon they conceded a soft free kick on the other side. Kevin McHattie's fine delivery found Paterson again, this time evading Forster to plant another header.
Hearts played without pressure. They are a limited but gutsy team which had three chances and took two of them. They do not lack character though, and when Ann Budge's takeover is complete they will have a popular new boardroom regime and a clear vision of where they are heading. Hibs have neither of those.
Going 2-0 down was hard on the home side. There had been no football up until then, no quality, no rhythm to the game, but the few half-chances peppered through the play had been created by them.
Sam Stanton was playing off Jason Cummings - James Collins was on the bench - and one flashing Stanton cross did not find a taker, a through pass almost put Scott Robertson through but he could not quite carry the ball from under his feet.
Robertson was starting for the first time since January because of a knee injury and struggled to get the pace of the game. Hibs made changes yet again, four this time. Only the performances and results stay the same.
After Forster scored there was some Hibs pressure, predictably laboured and frantic. When the ball broke in front of Jamie MacDonad there was a glorious chance for Collins, on as a second-half substitute. He had a hopeless fresh air kick.
The stands howled in derision. Hearts then broke and Ryan Stevenson was clean through on goal. He cheekily flicked the ball over Ben Williams only for it to slither just outside the far post.
Still, Hearts had their win. At full-time a banner hung over the scoreboard surrounded by the bouncing, refusing-to-leave away support: "This Heart still beats".
That now goes without saying. But where is the pulse at Easter Road?