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Scrappy derby win is a rare sight for Stevenson

For some Hibernian players, the immediate reaction to knocking their city rivals Hearts out of the William Hill Scottish Cup was one of relief.

Lewis Stevenson feels beating Hearts has gone some way to exorcising the trauma of last year's final
Lewis Stevenson feels beating Hearts has gone some way to exorcising the trauma of last year's final

Having lost heavily to their neighbours in last season's final, Sunday's game at Easter Road was an opportunity to atone, at least in part, but there was also the prospect of suffering a second derby loss in the same tournament. "There's a few of us who have been at Hibs for a while and wins against Hearts have not come along all that often," said midfielder Lewis Stevenson. "So it's nice to have one to celebrate."

The game was a toil for both sides, and the winning strike came via a deflection. The scrappiness was in keeping with the tone of the contest, but Hibs could take comfort from the scoreline. Pat Fenlon, the manager, also took the opportunity to thank the Hibs supporters afterwards, after they had to endure the pain of the 5-1 defeat at Hampden last May. The players, too, were traumatised by that day but the team has been rejuvenated this season and is sitting in second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League table, only one point behind Celtic but having played an extra game.

"It took me such a long time to get over what happened in the cup final," said Stevenson. "I locked myself in my room for a month afterwards. I couldn't read any papers, I couldn't watch any television. I didn't want to be reminded about it.

"Football has its ups and downs and beating Hearts is a step towards correcting what happened at Hampden. But the fans will be wanting more. I don't think beating Hearts in one game has made up for what happened in the final. We'd have to win 5-0 against them to make up for it.

"This season the fans have been right behind the manager. We have tried to play football in the right way. The fans seem a lot more positive this season. When we lost 1-0 to Aberdeen recently we played well and they clapped and cheered us off the pitch after getting beaten. That's unheard of at Easter Road. In the past we've won games and had still been booed off the pitch. Even years before when we were getting bigger crowds there was still a negative atmosphere. But they are behind the manager and behind the players and they've given the team great support this season."

Fenlon is also hopeful that making progress in the Scottish Cup will help the club's bid to retain the services of Leigh Griffiths, the striker who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Griffiths, who has scored 13 goals this season, is one of three players whose loan deal expires next month, and discussions are on-going to try to keep him, Jorge Claros and Ryan McGivern at the club until the end of the campaign.

"Everything helps in relation to attracting players, whether it's Leigh or somebody else," Fenlon said. "We've got a fantastic stadium and great training facilities. We don't have loads of money to throw at players, but we have got good attributes that we can attract players with. And winning football matches is the biggest attribute of them all."

Griffiths, a boyhood Hibs fan, was carried off with an ankle injury during Sunday's cup tie. David Wotherpoon's goal was welcome but keeping a clean sheet was integral to Hibs' victory, and particularly satisfying for Fenlon, since he set out at the start of the season to make Hibs more robust at the back. The manager was also particularly impressed with the display of Stevenson, who had to fill in at left-back due to injuries but whose performance epitomised the team's gritty display.

"The back four were excellent and I thought that Lewis at left-back was excellent for us," Fenlon said. "He has not been in the team and he is a central midfielder or a left-sided midfielder, and he's gone in at left-back in the last few games and has been excellent. He epitomises what we want to be here.

"Lewis is only a little lad, like myself, and he was up against some big boys, and he showed great commitment."

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