Hearts 0 Hibernian 0
Ladbrokes Premiership, Wednesday 27th December 2017 – Tynecastle Park
The Edinburgh Reporter’s sports correspondent par excellence John Hislop provides the excellent match reports concerning Hibernian on this here website. As I cobble together a few words on Hearts games, John and I have a gentleman’s agreement on who provides the match report for the Edinburgh Reporter when Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian face each other on league business or regular Scottish Cup duty. On Wednesday, John proposed he would do it if Hibernian secured victory while I would concoct a few words in the event of a Hearts win or a draw.
As the Ladbrokes Premiership game ended goalless it falls to me to try and describe the action. As events transpired this is quite a painful experience.
The game was, quite frankly, awful. Far too many aimless long punts down the field from both teams, miss-timed tackles, miss-placed passes and a refereeing performance in keeping with the standard of the players.
The atmosphere was typically frenzied as the game kicked off and it was the visitors who were the first to settle with John McGinn, as he so often does, looking to orchestrate things for the men in green and white. However, it was Hearts who had the first real chance in the fifth minute. Isma Goncalves got past Paul Hanlon down the right wing and delivered a cross aimed at Jamie Walker. The attacking midfielder – believed to be heading to English League One side Wigan Athletic in the January transfer window – headed the ball to Don Cowie who promptly fed it back to Walker who curled a shot from around 12 yards over the bar.
Sixty seconds later there was controversy and a decision which enraged Hibs boss Neil Lennon. Hibs burst forward down the right through Martin Boyle. The Aberdonian fed Oli Shaw who fired in a first-time effort which crashed off the crossbar and seemingly over the goal line to give Hibs the lead. As Shaw wheeled away in celebration and the travelling support in the Roseburn Stand roared their delight their collective fervour was immediately doused when the assistant referee deemed the ball had not crossed the line. Television replays showed the official’s decision was incorrect and Hibs anger was understandable.
Anthony Stokes then fired in an effort which went just over, and it was clear Hearts were losing the midfield battle and showing little in attack.
That said, Hearts did earn a free-kick just outside the Hibs penalty box, but Kyle Lafferty’s effort was straight at the Hibs defensive wall and the chance was lost.
That was about it for a woeful first half. One wondered what the Sky Sports viewers made of it all…
Half-time Hearts 0 Hibernian 0
Hearts at least looked a bit more determined after the interval and Jamie Walker easily got past Efe Ambrose to cross for Kyle Lafferty inside the penalty box. It looked a great opportunity for the former Rangers player to open the scoring, but he got himself in a terrible fankle and another chance was gone.
Both teams resorted to long high ball after long high ball with only Hearts Jamie Brandon and Hibs’ John McGinn looking to pass the ball on the ground with any distinction. It was McGinn who burst through the Hearts defence but his effort on goal went over the cross bar and into the expectant away support in the Roseburn Stand.
Hibs had another couple of chances through Martin Boyle but Hearts defence, superbly marshalled by captain Christophe Berra stood firm.
The only other incident of note of a depressing ninety minutes was when Berra’s header inside the Hibs penalty box appeared to strike the arm of Hibee Lewis Stevenson but the referee, in reverting to type, waved play on. This time it was the turn of the home players and support to vent their fury towards the hapless official.
After the game both managers had different views.
Hearts Head Coach Craig Levein told BBC Scotland “It wasn’t one for the purists. I thought Hibs edged the first half and I believe the chance they had went over the line – we maybe get a wee break.
“In the second half I thought we were the better side and Kyle’s missed an absolutely fantastic chance inside the six-yard box, which normally he would put away.
As usual, Hibs gaffer Neil Lennon didn’t hold back.
“We should have come away from here with three points – it’s clearly a goal,” Lennon told BBC Scotland, referring to the Shaw goal that never was.
“We can all see it where we’re sitting, and the linesman, who gave every offside in the first half, didn’t see the most important call and that’s poor – that’s really poor.
“Steven McLean had a chat with me afterwards because I was incandescent with rage. The way the ball comes down, it’s got to be a goal. It doesn’t bounce straight down, it spins back out. Everyone can see it’s a goal.”
On a freezing cold evening in Edinburgh, Hearts and Hibernian did nothing to warm the crowd of over 19,000 who took it in turns to shout ‘hoof’ every time Hearts and then Hibs launched another aimless high ball downfield.
From a Hearts point of view, the only note of positivity was that Hearts are now unbeaten in eight games and have not conceded a goal in five.
For Hibs, their unbeaten run in the Edinburgh derby now stands at nine games.
On my way home from Tynecastle an ambulance raced by on its way to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The match ball was believed to be inside. I do hope it makes a full recovery…
Hearts: McLaughlin, Randall (Hughes, 49′), Souttar, Berra, Brandon, Cowie, Buaben, Walker, Milinkovic (Callachan, 83′), Goncalves, Lafferty.
Hibs: Marciano, Hanlon, Bartley, McGinn, McGeouch, Stevenson, Boyle (Barker, 75′ – Matulevicius, 85′)), McGregor, Ambrose, Stokes, Shaw (Murray, 72′).
Referee: Steven McLean
Top man: Jamie Brandon