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Clydesdale Bank SPL, Monday 2 January 2012 - The Two Stands Too Many Stadium
The 'Hearts in Crisis' headlines are never far away from the newspapers and now we've reached January and the opening of the transfer window, there are spurious stories about players queueing up to leave Tynecastle, heartily fed up (if you'll excuse the pun) of not getting paid on time. Eggert Jonsson has already gone, Ryan Stevenson refuses to go back and likes of Andrew Driver and Rudi Skacel are likely to be among the others taking their leave. However, amidst such turmoil, there is one constant in Scottish football - Hearts domination of the Edinburgh derby.
This latest victory at Easter Road took Hearts unbeaten run in the capital derby to nine games and the only disappointment for the goading visiting fans was that the winning margin wasn't greater. A ten minute spell at the beginning of the second half apart, Hearts dominated the game. After 15 minutes, the mercurial David Templeton skipped past home defender Hanlon, cut inside the Hibs penalty box before firing in a low effort that smacked off the post with Hibs keeper Stack rooted to the spot. 'Temps' had another effort shortly afterwards that flew over the crossbar before Mehdi Taouil diverted Stephen Elliott's cross wide of goal - and injured himself in the process, going off to be replaced by Andrew Driver.
Just on half-time, Hearts should have gone ahead. Elliott pounced on a defensive error and raced into the Hibs penalty box. Home keeper Stack bundled him off the ball. Penalty roared the Hearts supporters behind the opposite goal - and it was. We waited for referee Calum Murray to show the Hibs custodian a red card for denying Elliott a clear goalscoring opportunity. The official duly reached into his pocket - and flashed a yellow card. A mystifying decision which puzzled Hearts players and supporters alike - an emotion that turned to despair when Ian Black missed the subsequent penalty kick, his weak effort saved by Stack who, by now, should have been in the bath. It was Hearts third penalty miss in four weeks.
Hibs began the second half the more dangerous team - briefly - but it was Hearts who took the lead after 57 minutes. Andy Webster's header looked to be going in but Ryan McGowan made sure although there was a hint of offside over Elliott's positioning - not that we were complaining. However, Hearts fans joy was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Marius Zaliukas turned Galbraith's cross past a helpless Marian Kello and the home team were level. Hibs fancied their chances now but it was Hearts who regained the lead with eight minutes left when substitute John Sutton controlled the ball well to set up Andy Webster who stroked the ball past Stack from just inside the penalty box with all the skill of an experienced striker. Bedlam in the away end.
Minutes later, Andrew Driver really should have ended the game when he was clean through on goal but the Englishman took too much time on the ball at the edge of the penalty box and the danger was averted. However, in injury time, Hearts broke away again and Sutton delivered a cross for fellow substitute Rudi Skacel to drive the ball past Stack to end the scoring at 3-1 to Edinburgh's finest.
It was a fine performance from Hearts, even allowing for the poor quality of the opposition. Had the Maroons taken all their chances it may well have been 6-1 - which really would have been a spectacular start to the New Year.
If some of the Hearts players are about to take their leave as has been widely reported, it was a fine way to take their leave.
Top man: Ian Black - despite his penalty miss, the midfield man was in top form.