Sunday, 17 August 2014

Heart of Midlothian 2 Hibernian 1

SPFL Championship, Sunday 17 August 2014 – Tynecastle 

History was made at Tynecastle this afternoon. Given the amount of times there is an Edinburgh derby these days you may question that statement. However, this afternoon saw the first ever Hearts-Hibs fixture to be played in the second flight of Scottish league football.

After the fall out of relegation for both capital clubs, this summer has seen major changes at Tynecastle and Easter Road. Both clubs now have new managers, a sprinkling of new players and there is now a powerful and successful woman at the helm of both Edinburgh clubs. 

It was with this in mind that a full house packed Tynecastle Stadium for the first of at least four Edinburgh derbies this season. Hearts had something of a pre-match goalkeeping crisis with first choice keeper Neil Alexander ruled out for a month after fracturing his cheekbone in last week’s victory over Rangers at Ibrox and his understudy Scott Gallacher also being ruled out with an ankle injury. It was left to 20-year-old Jack Hamilton, whose loan to Stenhousemuir had to be curtailed due to the goalkeeping crisis, to make his competitive first-team debut for Hearts. 

It may have been a Sunday lunch-time kick-off but it was a typically fervent Edinburgh derby atmosphere at Tynecastle. Hibs supporters, despite their agonies of last season, nearly filled the Roseburn Stand and gave their team tremendous backing. The Hearts support responded in kind and the unfurling of a banner in the old main stand which red ‘Tick Tock Who’s Laughing Now’ was an obvious reference to those Hibs supporters who took great demise in their city rivals sinking into administration just over a year ago.   

The first half, it has to be said, was as far-removed from some of the free-flowing football on display at the World Cup in Brazil this summer as was possible. The midfield became a battleground with a stream of fouls and misplaced passes and one yearned for a playmaker to put their foot on the ball and calm things down. Sadly, this didn’t happen. 

There were few highlights of that opening 45 minutes. Michael Nelson headed just over for the visitors while Hearts Jason Holt delivered an inviting cross into the Hibs penalty box – unfortunately, no one was willing to accept the invitation. 

There was plenty of effort and determination from both sides but with half an hour gone neither goalkeeper had been called to make a save of any note. Then came the game’s first real chance. 

Hibs Daniel Handling raced into the Hearts penalty box with Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton racing to meet him. The Gorgie youngster brought him down and referee Willie Collum immediately pointed to the penalty spot. The Hearts players and fans alike were aghast when the official reached for a card but, thankfully for the home side, it was just a yellow and the goalkeeper remained on the pitch. Hibs’ Liam Craig stepped up to take the penalty kick but his effort went wide to the delight of the goading home support in the Gorgie Stand.

Eight minutes before the interval, Hearts Sam Nicholson volleyed a first-time effort which forced Hibs goalkeeper Mark Oxley into a fine save. Following his remarkable goal against Livingston at Easter Road last weekend, Oxley was being suitably encouraged by the Hibs fans in the Roseburn Stand behind his goal to shoot at every opportunity…

The only other chance of a hugely disappointing first half was right on the stroke of half-time when Hearts young defender Jordan McGhee fired in an effort from 25 yards which whistled past the post. Half-time: Hearts 0 Hibs 0

Those supporters hoping Messrs Neilson and Stubbs might have offered few words of encouragement to their players to actually play football which was pleasing on the eye were somewhat disappointed when the second half quickly began to mirror the first – Hearts Jason Holt was fouled within six seconds of the re-start. Although the game was end-to-end there seemed little danger of the goal nets actually making contact with the ball – until the 76th minute and a most welcome display of skill and finishing.

Hearts Sam Nicholson evaded a weak challenge before striding forward and unleashing a superb shot from 25 yards which flew into the net past a startled Oxley to give the home side the lead. Tynecastle erupted in a cacophony of noise from the home support as another derby win beckoned.

Just four minutes later, Hearts doubled their lead. Hibs Scott Robertson pulled down Prince Buaben in the penalty box and Buaben himself made no mistake with the penalty, shooting high into the net. Robertson was shown a yellow card which, being his second of the game, meant it was an early bath for the Hibs midfielder. And an early exit for hundreds of Hibs supporters who had seen enough and decided to head for home (or the pub to drown their sorrows)

However, Hearts never do things easily. Against ten men and with a two goal advantage, you might have expected the Maroons to comfortably see out the game. Not a bit of it. Hibs striker El Alagui almost pulled a goal back but his effort was brilliantly saved by young Hamilton in the Hearts goal.

Moments later, Hearts were also reduced to ten men when striker Osman Sow was shown a red card for extensive use of his elbow. Having been thwarted minutes earlier, El Alagui did score for the visitors following a mistake from Hearts skipper Danny Wilson, the Hibs man heading past Hamilton.

Hearts were then content to play out the four minutes of stoppage time and when referee Collum did eventually blow his whistle there was much relief from the home support.

After the game, Hearts Head Coach Robbie Neilson was quick to praise youngster Jack Hamilton.

"I had no issues about bringing Jack in. I worked with him last year," said the former youth coach. "He could have been man of the match today. It was an intense atmosphere. He handled it like a seasoned pro."  

Not the greatest Edinburgh derby you’ll ever see but Hearts won’t be complaining too much as they celebrate yet another victory over their rivals. 

Hearts: Hamilton, McHattie, Wilson, Ozturk, Gomis, Holt, Nicholson, King, Buaben, Sow, McGhee.

Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Nelson, Forster, Harris, Robertson, El Alagui, Craig, Stanton, Stevenson, Handling

Referee: Willie Collum

Att: 17,280

Top man: Hearts Sam Nicholson – a wee gem in an afternoon which rarely sparkled.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Times They Are A Changin!

It’s surely fair comment to say that, just a few months ago, not many Hearts supporters expected Sunday's opponents to be lining up for the Maroon’s first home league game of the season in the SPFL Championship. Last season’s 15 point deduction and signing embargo imposed on Hearts following the club’s administration last summer meant the Gorgie Boys were always hot favourites for relegation. That they went down fighting spoke volumes for the players and the truly magnificent support whose backing for the team never wavered and who will be supporting the team in a similarly impressive manner this season. The Maroon Army had to contend with countless taunts from supporters of our city rivals towards the end of last season. I was asked by more than one Hibby if I was going to the final Hibs-Hearts game of the season at Easter Road – ‘as it would be the last Edinburgh derby for several years’

I took this on both my chins, of course. After all, Hearts supporters will never let their Hibernian counterparts forget what happened in the William Hill Scottish Cup Final of 2012. There were many Hibbies who saw Hearts relegation as justified comeuppance for the club living beyond its means, although it’s fair to say this could be applied to many clubs in Scotland, including Hibs themselves.

However, as last season drew to its astonishing conclusion, it was evident the Easter Road club were hell-bent on self-destruction. They required just one win from their final few games to avoid the relegation play-offs. Even a point in their final game at home to Kilmarnock would have been enough. Of course, history will relate they didn’t get it. History will also relate that Hibs took a 2-0 first leg aggregate lead from their play-off against Hamilton Academical – but still succumbed to the Accies in their return leg at Easter Road and lost their top-flight status after a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

There was, naturally, much ribbing from Hearts supporters to their city counterparts. However, some of my closest friends, including the fella who will be best man at my wedding next February, are Hibs fans and I genuinely felt for some of them and the devastation they undeniably experienced.

Hibs demise against Hamilton Academical brought to mind Hearts notorious end of the season game against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle in April 1965. The Maroons were top of the league with the Ayrshire team in second place. The final game of the season between the two had been described as a ‘winner-takes-all’ but it wasn’t even that. Hearts just had to avoid a two goal loss at home to ensure the league title would be heading to Gorgie after a five year absence. Even a 1-0 defeat would see Hearts win the league on goal average as was the way of deciding such matters at that time.

Again, history relates that Hearts lost 2-0, thereby handing the league title to Kilmarnock. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hearts supporters had to endure similar agonies 21 years later when the silver-shirted Maroons needed just a draw in their final league game at Dundee to win the league title. Hearts had been unbeaten since the end of September and, with just eight minutes remaining at Dens Park and the game still goalless, the title party was about to begin. Until Dundee substitute Albert Kidd proceeded to wreck the party by scoring his first two goals of the season…

This afternoon we are about to witness history. The first ever Edinburgh derby to be played in the second flight of Scottish league football. In a division which also includes Rangers – if anyone had suggested this scenario five years ago they would have been carted off for some medical attention. With just one team assured of automatic promotion, it does mean that at least one of Scotland’s major clubs will spend a minimum of two seasons in the second tier of Scottish football. As former Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen might say ‘that’s simply unbelievable’

Both clubs now have new managers, a sprinkling of new players and there is now a powerful and successful woman at the helm of both Edinburgh clubs. When Hearts lost the league title in 1965, singer Bob Dylan released a single that still resonates in Edinburgh five decades later. For Hearts and Hibernian, ‘The Times They are a-Changin’.

Hopefully, for the better!


Friday, 8 August 2014

Footballer's Hair Styles

This is taken from When Saturday Comes website. It's a short film about football injuries. Chelsea's John Dempsey is interviewed by a young John Stapleton, now a breakfast television stalwart, in the 1970s. You don't see many hair styles like these nowadays...