After running late last month when we visited Edinburgh, we were in the capital again and at Tynecastle, for our first ever Edinburgh Derby. This is the featured Live game on ESPN, in another Sunday midday kick off, in what is the penultimate weekend of the season.
We left the house just before 10am, to make sure we got there in plenty of time and got a good run through, until we hit the city bypass again! On the final hurdle to the stadium, the traffic started to crawl, so I pretty much ditched the car next to what looked like a quiet housing estate, about fifteen minutes walk away.
As usual, as soon as we got out the car, down came the rain! We walked round as much of the ground as we possibly could, taking a few pictures along the way, looked into the club shop, bought a programme, then headed to the turnstiles. Once in, the crowd looked quite sparse, but come kick off it was near capacity and the atmosphere was excellent. I have only been here once before, for a cup game in the mid 1980s, suffice to say, Tynecastle has undergone massive changes since then.
Hearts have had a torrid season both on and off the park, while Hibernian have surprisingly had the upper hand in this fixture during this campaign and are preparing for a Scottish Cup Final at the end of the month. With confusion over what the future holds for all staff at the club, due to issues with the owner, Vladimir Romanov in Lithuania and the team just escaping relegation, Hearts will be keen to end the season on a high, with victory over their rivals.
The home side welcomed Andy Webster back into the centre of the defence, following a suspension and he partnered Darren Barr, who confirmed recently that he will be leaving the club in the summer. Michael Ngoo started up front with John Sutton, even although he was not fully fit, but it is in the midfield area where these kind of games are won and lost. Ryan Stevenson and Mehdi Taouil were the older heads in the centre of the park, with promising youngsters, Jason Holt and Jamie Walker alongside them.
Hibernian had their own injury concerns, most notably the absence of James McPake in defence. In a bold move, Manager Pat Fenlon gave a debut to nineteen year old, Jordon Forster at centre half, along with an opportunity to Ross Caldwell up front, with another prospect in the making, Alex Harris in midfield.
Fenlon would be looking for the likes of Alan Maybury and Kevin Thomson, to use their experience in this fixture and lead by example to the other players. This was also likely to be Leigh Griffiths last appearance in the green shirt of Hibernian, before returning to his parent club, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The pitch was in great condition, though with the wet surface the ball moved quickly across the surface. Hibs had a lot of the early possession and did well to keep hold of the ball, yet it was Hearts who had the best chance to score just after ten minutes played. Hibernian goalkeeper, Ben Williams failed to take a McHattie corner cleanly, Darren Barr headed goal wards and it was cleared by Lewis Stevenson. It fell only as far as Ngoo, he headed it back and this time Maybury cleared it to safety.
With twenty minutes played, the visitors had their first real shot at goal, when Harris forced ‘keeper, Jamie MacDonald into a save from twenty five yards. At the other end couple of minutes later, Hearts’ Walker put a shot over the bar from the edge of the eighteen yard box.
Kevin Thomson then irked the home support, when he appeared to go down in the box a bit theatrically, but referee, Steven McLean was not buying it and waved play on. Just after the half hour mark, Leigh Griffiths hit an ambitious free kick at goal, some thirty yards out, after Taouil had fouled the Hibs talisman, but it was deflected off the wall for a corner.
Five minutes before the break, an excellent run by Jamie Walker for Hearts, saw him cut in from the left wing, before getting a shot away that went just over the bar. Right on half time though, Hearts made the break through, despite Hibs players protests, that there had been a foul committed in the build up.
Having failed to learn their lesson from a couple of previous inswinging corners by Kevin McHattie, Hibs paid the ultimate price. The kick was met by Ngoo, whose downward header, seemed to hang in the air and landed at the feet of Darren Barr. He swept the ball into the net from a couple of yards out and open the scoring, as three sides of the ground erupted!
From the restart following the goal, Hibs were straight up the park and had Jamie MacDonald worried, when his cross come shot from the left side, went narrowly past the post and this proved to be the last action of the half.
Barely two minutes had been played of the second half, when Hibs drew level and again, it was following a free kick awarded for another Taouil challenge, this time on Harris. It was a considerable distance from goal, but Griffiths has made this type of situation his specialty.
As the Hearts players lined up the wall, in anticipation for a strike at goal, the home fans were going off their head, shouting for Ngoo to stand at the other side of the wall. If only the players had listened! The big striker’s height may have prevented Griffiths getting the ball up and over the wall and into the top right hand corner of the net, had he been positioned on the left side of the Hearts wall. This is maybe proof, that sometimes the fans are right!
Right after the goal, Hibs were on the attack again, when Harris’ low cross to the back post from the right hand side, had to be turned away for a corner by Jamie Hamill. Hearts then had two similar chances a couple of minutes later, when first Hamill, then Walker put crosses to the back post which Sutton failed to properly connect with.
A long ball played into the Hearts half, saw Hamill misjudge the bounce of the ball and it was collected by Harris. He fed Griffiths, who then laid it on for Caldwell, but his cut back was poor, Hearts cleared the danger and left several Hibs players well out of position.
Hearts then had a period of dominance in the game, Just before the hour mark, Ngoo was fouled by Forster and from the resultant free kick, Jamie Hamill’s effort forced Ben Williams to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
Walker then fired a shot just wide of Williams’ right hand post, following a neat knock down from Ngoo. A sweeping move again from Hearts nearly gave them the lead, when Holt and Hamill combined to play in Stevenson. His cutback into the six yard box was decent, but it was cleared by Hanlon for a corner.
With ten minutes left, both teams made changes, with Hearts replacing Taouil with David Smith and Hibs, Kevin Thomson, making way for Scott Robertson. If anyone looked likely to score, it was Hearts. They were very unfortunate with five minutes left, when Jamie Walker was booked for simulation. He had made a good run from the left, into the penalty box and from our position, it looked as though there was contact and that a penalty should have been awarded.
Hibs’ Maybury then fouled Stevenson, out on the left flank and from the resultant free kick, McHattie then floated a ball in for Sutton, but he glanced his header just past the post.
In a rare foray up field, Hibs forced a corner in the last minute, but MacDonald collected Harris’ effort. As we entered the last minute, the home team suffered the ultimate sting in the tail, when Hibs, having been outplayed for large parts of the second half, scored the winner.
Griffiths found himself breaking down the left, but as he was closed down by Hamill, the ball fell into the path of Scott Robertson. He burst into the box and was robustly challenged, with a good shout for a penalty, but Ross Caldwell picked up the loose ball and curled a fine shot into MacDonald’s top left hand corner. Three stands remained silent, with one coming alive, as a handful of Hibs fans also spilled onto the pitch in celebration!
A number of Hearts fans decided to leave and it could have been even worse for them, when two minutes into stoppage time, Hibs nearly scored again. Caldwell outpaced Andy Webster and as he bore down on goal, he hit a tame shot into the body of Jamie MacDonald, when he should have buried it. This was pretty much the last action of the game, as referee, McLean blew for full time. It was a fast paced, entertaining game, with both teams having great chances to score. A draw may have been a fairer result, given that Hearts had dominated most of the second half.
Hearts players intended doing a lap of honour round the pitch once the Hibs fans and players had left the field at full time. We hung about for maybe five minutes after the final whistle and there were not many fans who had stayed behind. As we got out onto the concourse, next to the exits, there was a young family in front of us, with about four kids under the age of ten. With people naturally disappointed losing to your local rival and a lot of glum faces in among those leaving the Gorgie Road end, one of the kids says “so did we win that match then?” If looks could kill, as a number of people turned to see who posed this bizarre question!
After the walk back to the car, we were soaked through and the traffic was tediously slow for the first mile or so, but then made good progress on the road home.
Due to the early kick off, we never bought any food, so cannot comment on this, but with tickets priced at £30 for parent and child in the Gorgie Stand, I felt it was decent value for a big Derby game like this. The programme is made of high quality paper and maybe explains why the cover price is £3.50, however, it is does not deter the fact that it is a good read. Although we were in the home end and it was not the result the fans would have desired, this was still an excellent stadium visit all round.
Tynecastle saw major redevelopment work take place in the mid 1990s, with three sides of the ground completely rebuilt. The Main Stand has had the roof repaired and replaced in recent years, but is a bit dated looking in appearance and is the smallest of all four stands. It will provide a decent view of the pitch and the rest of the stadium, however there are a number of supporting pillars which may obstruct your view in certain parts.
Across from this, is the biggest of the new structures, the large Wheatfield Stand, which holds a majority of the Hearts support. The Gorgie Stand which is behind the left goal is dedicated as the club’s Family Stand. Opposite this is the Roseburn Stand which is for the away support. All three of the newer stands are single tiered and with them being situated close to the pitch, the atmosphere generated for high profile games or when it is near capacity, is excellent.
For the sake of the game in Scotland, I hope Hearts and all their creditors, can amicably resolve their differences in the coming weeks and months.