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Stick suffered by fans acts as a carrot for Tynecastle squad

For those watching Hearts, this season has not left much to the imagination.

Jamie MacDonald is determined to thwart Hibs. Picture: SNS
Jamie MacDonald is determined to thwart Hibs. Picture: SNS

That has been a cause for amusement among those peering over the fence from Easter Road since Hearts have approached the latest derby like a wee Edinburgh wifey whose delicates have been blown from the whirligig and is desperately trying to retrieve them without the neighbours seeing. Enough is known about the Tynecastle side's dirty laundry already, after all.

They have not been able to look their best this season and might still be served a further indignity. Hibernian make their way across the city tomorrow and might do so knowing that they can be the ones to officially relegate their city rivals from the SPFL Premiership. If St Mirren are able to avoid defeat in Inverness this afternoon then the seats in the main stand at Tynecastle are likely to feel awfully uncomfortable.

If Hearts are put down by their rivals then it will not be humane. Hibs supporters have sold out their allocation for tomorrow's derby and intend to gloat mercilessly, giving the home side a bit of a kicking on their way down into the Championship. That might also provide a tonic for their own pain, since Hibs have won just once in 12 league matches.

It is in that sorry run of form that Jamie MacDonald has found reason to smile, though, as well as the knowledge that Hearts have lost just three of the last 19 Edinburgh derbies. Indeed, the Hearts goalkeeper was yesterday almost at risk of appearing confident of his side's chances of getting one over on their neighbours.

"Relegation is on the horizon but ideally you wouldn't [go down against Hibs]," he said. "For the fans, more than anything, you don't want it to happen. Don't get me wrong, we don't want it to happen for ourselves, but more so for the fans.

"They're going to get stick regardless because of this season, but the players will be giving everything [at Tynecastle]. It's more pride than anything. For a bit of pride we'd like to win the game and, I suppose, we can go out with a bang.

"It's been difficult circumstances this year. If we get relegated [tomorrow] then it's not this game that's relegated us. It's been the 15-point deduction, not being able to add to a very youthful squad; there have been a lot of factors throughout the season that have caused relegation. It's not just this one game."

Hearts have earned just 21 points this season, the bullish optimism of last August having been replaced by a sense of realism and the reality that a string of plucky but poor performances from Gary Locke's youthful side were not enough to beat the drop. However, while MacDonald acknowledged that relegation is inevitable for his side, there is a whole lot less certainty over how the end of the season will pan out for Hibs.

Another couple of defeats - against Hearts tomorrow and Aberdeen a week on Monday - and the Easter Road outfit could easily be dragged into the fight to avoid the relegation play-off place. Indeed, rather than relishing Hearts' downfall, the goalkeeper suggested that the Hibs squad might be giving more thought to their own hopes of avoiding relegation.

"If we win [tomorrow] and results go for the other teams, then you never know, they could get dragged into that relegation play-off because there's still a lot of games to go," he added. "There could be more pressure on Hibs, yes. I suppose, for us, we know the situation and Hibs will start to feel the pressure if they do get beat in the game and results go for other teams. So, I suppose there is pressure on them, but there is always pressure in derby games. There is pressure on both sets for players for the game."

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