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Hibernian 2 Hearts 1: No sickener for Hibs this time as city turns green

THE final whistle had barely sounded on this mesmerising, gloriously chaotic Edinburgh derby when the Hibernian fans taunted Hearts about heading for relegation.

James Collins put Hibs ahead and he might have added another goal late on in a frantic derby. Picture: SNS
James Collins put Hibs ahead and he might have added another goal late on in a frantic derby. Picture: SNS

They're right, but they will miss them. Or they will miss dramas and triumphs as sweet as this one, at least.

Hibs had battered away at a young Hearts team like rope-a-dopes twice already this season and lost both times. For almost an hour they could not get past them last night either, and when they eventually scored through James Collins, the goal was cancelled out by David Smith's driving, determined run and scruffy deflected equaliser. Would Hearts sicken them again? Not this time. Hearts conceded the daftest of penalties and Liam Craig converted it with a finish so calm it looked he was in his own little bubble, immune from the surrounding chaos.

Terry Butcher's honeymoon with Hibs continues. That is one defeat in eight matches now, and at last the sweetest result of all in his first Edinburgh derby. He has got them eating out of the palm of his hand already, and has got his team into the top six.

The home stands had filled with supporters who sensed a kill. They were not just coming to see a Hibs win, they were anticipating a rout. The talk was of Hibs winning by three or four. Their support was huge and buoyant but in the circumstances it was even more admirable that the Hearts end was packed too. They had turned up fearing the worst but you would not have known it from the racket they made in the South Stand.

All the old taunts were exchanges like a familiar tennis rally: relegation, going bust and Tynecastle's conversion into flats from one set of fans, Hibs' inept Scottish Cup record and "there's only one Pat Fenlon" from the other one. All of it made for a fizzing, crackling atmosphere.

Butcher has brought organisation and more importantly confidence and belief to the players he inherited from Fenlon. Five goals against Ross County and Kilmarnock meant they could not be blamed for feeling more would come against the team with the poorest record in the division.

Hibs had Collins and Jason Cummings leading the line. The pair of them had plenty of balls flying into the Hearts box from Paul Cairney and Lewis Stevenson but Hibs' problem was the number of maroon bodies desperately throwing themselves in the way of everything. Hibs lay siege to the Hearts goal from the first minute, taking the game by the throat. It began with a bludgeoning intensity for the young visitors. They did well to survive almost an hour. Hibs were reduced to taking pot-shots from the edge of the box which were never clean or accurate enough to worry Jamie MacDonald.

Jordon Forster ghosted in at the back post and glanced an effort off the face of the crossbar. When Craig spooned the ball high in the air it dropped for Collins to head another effort which looked tame but struck the Hearts bar again. A goal beckoned for Cummings but he screwed a dreadful effort hopelessly wide.

The Hearts support revelled in their boys' resilience and they mocked the laboured attempts to break them down. They had seen this move twice already this season and hugely enjoyed how it ended. For this one they were further depleted by the 11th hour loss of Danny Wilson because of illness, with Jordan McGhee coming into the back four.

Hearts had their own spells of possession which did not throw up much in the way of chances except when Callum Paterson swung over a cross from the left which found Callum Tapping. His finish was on target but Ben Williams parried it and there was no-one following in.

It was all unfolding along the same old format - Hibs pressure hitting a bottleneck around the box - when suddenly they took the lead. Craig's corner was not cleared by Hearts and when Paul Hanlon won it in the air his knock down fell to Collins in the six-yard box. At last Hearts were exposed. Collins swivelled and lashed the ball high into the net.

Hibs were jubilant but the game had two twists to come. Smith went on a run and got a shot away from 20 yards which was saved by Williams but not well enough. The rebound ran loose, Smith got to it first his effort hit Ryan McGivern and ran into the corner of the Hibs net. The Hearts ended exploded in disbelieving joy. One idiot ran out and performed the gamut of gestures goading the home support, where his mental equal ran out to try to assault him. Both were huckled.

For 12 minutes it looked like Hearts had denied their rivals yet again, but for once this derby belonged to Hibs. Call it inexperience, or call it rashness, but seven minutes from time McGhee made a needless tackle on Stevenson that an older head would never have made. It was a stonewall penalty and Craig rolled it in. They had eight minutes to hold out and they passed furiously. Kevin McHattie could have equalised, or Collins made it 3-1. In the end, Butcher's alchemy got his side through.

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