NEIL LENNON claimed Hearts are now ‘irrelevant’ to his high-flying Hibernian on the back of a rousing Edinburgh derby victory at Easter Road last night.

Goals from Scott Allan and Jamie Maclaren sealed the victory that took Lennon’s team 12 points clear of their city rivals in the Ladbrokes Premiership on an evening where Craig Levein’s side were second best by a distance at times.

Levein had remarked on the back of Hearts’ 1-0 win over Hibs back in January that the natural order had been restored after a run of nine games without a win against the team from Leith came to an end. It’s a stick that beat him heavily last night as Lennon’s men dished out capital punishment to take them within one point of Aberdeen in third.

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“We’re delighted,” said the Hibs manager. “We’ve inched closer to the boys above us now and we’ve opened up a major gap between us and them.

“They are irrelevant to us now. We are looking up the table rather than what’s behind us.

“I don’t want to get in to another verbal spat but when you make these statements they will always come back to haunt you at some stage. It’s

come back to haunt him after four or five weeks. We’ve got the bragging rights back. For how long, I don’t know, but the gap in the table is huge, and it’s huge on the pitch as well.

“Aberdeen are away and the gap is a point. Rangers have got Celtic and anything can happen. We’re just pleased we’ve maintained this good form. We’ve beaten good teams like Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, drew with Kilmarnock. With all the razzmatazz of the derby we went in really cold and played brilliantly.”

Lennon was understandably delighted for Allan, who netted his first goal for the club since returning on loan from Celtic in the January window. In truth he was just one of a midfield three containing Dylan McGeouch and John McGinn that shone brightly under the Easter Road floodlights.

“I wouldn’t say Scotty was having a rough moment in the game but a few things weren’t coming off for him. The difference in him from maybe six months or a year ago is he didn’t let his head go down.

“He kept wanting the ball and trying to be brave. His goal was exquisite. He started to tire at the end but you see him getting back in to the corner to make a tackle and get us out of trouble. He can be delighted with his contribution. McGeouch is a sublime player and McGinn is just awesome, he was absolutely awesome tonight.

“Even when the game was in the throws of the first half, he was the man driving the team forward, making tackles and getting us playing. In the second half he was the best player on the pitch by a country mile, just brilliant. I thought we were outstanding. We had to be patient. Hearts played well defensively and made life very difficult for us. The psychology of the team was very good, especially in the second half where we were strong.

While Lennon hailed his players, his counterpart was unsurprisingly glum after being made to eat his words.When asked if the gap in points reflected the quality of the two teams, he answered: “It’s hard for me to say no because the points tell a story, don’t they?

“I think this game is typical of the way the season has gone for both teams, we didn’t quite manage to gel and Hibs kept at it and got a couple of goals through persistence more than anything else.

“Hibs played exactly how I expected them to play, I didn’t think they would do anything different and they didn’t. We just didn’t do well enough in possession of the ball. At the other end we defender well, I thought John and Christophe were excellent.

“We went man for man at times and they dealt with the threat until those throw in situations which is really annoying.”

Levein added: “I’ve got plenty things to complain about, mainly the defending for both goals. I thought the game was very even, there weren’t many chances. We competed just as much as they did but we lost two goals from just not doing our jobs properly, which is really, really frustrating.

“I thought we did reasonably well until we got to the final third. I thought our best players could have done better. We had opportunities to play that final pass or hit the target and we didn’t do it well enough. The frustrating thing is we went toe-to-toe, I didn’t feel we were under any pressure at all and losing those goals was sickening.”