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Hearts 2 Hibernian 1: Business as usual: Hearts win ugly, frenetic derby

ADD another beaten Hibernian manager to the gleeful Jambo songbook.

Prince Buaben shows his delight after beating Hibernian goalkeeper Mark Oxley from the penalty spot to put Hearts 2-0 ahead. Picture: SNS
Prince Buaben shows his delight after beating Hibernian goalkeeper Mark Oxley from the penalty spot to put Hearts 2-0 ahead. Picture: SNS

New regimes, new division, and the same old story in the Edinburgh derby. Hearts won for the fifth time in six meetings and as Tynecastle descended into a tumult of late goals and red cards - three of the former, two of the latter - poor Alan Stubbs was being taunted just like Pat Fenlon, Terry Butcher and all those other sorry recent Hibs leaders.

The derby has its traditions and, for Hearts, winning feels like one of them. A pretty dreadful match, torture to watch for most of the afternoon, ignited with a blaze of late incidents. A sumptuous Sam Nicholson goal and a Prince Buaben penalty gave Hearts a commanding late lead, Scott Robertson and Osman Sow were red carded, Farid El Alagui scored a peach of a consolation, Lewis Stevenson and Jamie Walker were lucky to escape serious punishment and at full time Hibs captain Liam Craig stormed up the tunnel in a rage. It was comically mad and frantic by the end. The result kept Hearts as joint leaders in the SPFL Championship and extended Hibs' pitiful derby sequence to three wins in 22.

There wasn't much in this one, to be fair to them. The teams were a match for each other and Hibs did not fold or look brittle as they so often have of late. The game was largely even and intensely fought. Hearts just had a little more, and they had a greater share of possession without being able to do much with it. Hibs tried to keep the ball down without doing enough to open up Hearts. There was very little quality on show but these two teams are clearly going to live up to their billing as major forces in the Championship.

To be charitable, the swirling, unpredictable wind made life difficult for the players. But it was impossible to believe things would have been any different had the match been played on an indoor bowling green. Just about every Edinburgh derby has been the same for decades - claustrophobic, frantic, lacking composure -and this one extended a long sequence of fiercely competitive mediocrity.

Hearts had been dealt the toughest possible start to life in the second tier - opening games against Rangers and Hibs, their strongest rivals - and they have harvested all six points. After the match their young head coach, Robbie Neilson, described those as being just like any other wins but in reality Hearts should look at a run of league fixtures against Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath and Livingston and wonder if they can now exert real pressure on title favourites Rangers by setting a powerful early pace.

Hearts' debut goalkeeper, Jack Hamilton, aged 20, had a decent performance despite being central to the first half's major controversy. When El Alagui flicked on a through ball Danny Handling was suddenly away. The Hibs man got a touch to the ball before being flattened by Hamilton. Referee Willie Collum gave a penalty - it was questionable whether it was a foul at all - although at least he spared him a red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, having correctly acknowledged that Handling was not going to net.

Hibs had a gift, and handed it back. Craig made an almighty hash of the penalty, slipping a watery effort past the foot of Hamilton's left-hand post. The Hearts fans didn't know what to do first: taunt the Hibees for cocking things up or howl abuse at Collum for putting them at risk in the first place.

Both teams tried to play a bit of football but it was beyond them, with barely a move going beyond half a dozen passes before breaking down. Much of that was due to the diligence and relentlessness of the pressing, from both sides, but it made for an ugly, frustrating afternoon.

Neither attack laid much of a glove on the opposing back four. Michael Nelson and Jordan Forster never allowed Sow any room. Nicholson, Jason Holt and Billy King always tried to add energy and movement behind him but they struggled to find room or create chances.

The game was drifting towards a goalless draw when Nicholson took possession in central midfield, nutmegged Robertson, drove forward and unleashed a glorious long-range shot past Mark Oxley.

The place was still reverberating when Hearts went for the throat a couple of minutes later. Robertson, already booked, was shown a second card and sent off for a shove on Buaben in the box. Buaben rammed home his penalty so emphatically he may as well have turned to Craig and shouted "that's how you take 'em".

Hibs' day had dissolved. There were 10 minutes left for them, and four more were added, but the game had lost its cool. Sow was shown a straight red card for nastily going in with his elbow on Nelson. It was a shame for El Alagui that his delicious goal - flicking the ball over Danny Wilson, turning and volleying home from the edge of the box - was almost lost amid the bedlam.

Stevenson then lunged in crudely on Walker, who reacted by making head-to-head contact. In the end it was noisy, compelling, and a bit lawless. As usual, Hearts ruled.

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