Date:Sunday November 8 2009
The first Edinburgh derby of the 2009/10 season was unfortunately one of the poorest in living memory in the opinion of this slightly disgruntled Jambo.
Hearts have been struggling all season, particularly in terms of creativity and scoring goals, so it came as little surprise that once again their biggest failings were in the final third of the field.
So it was the performance of visitors Hibs that was probably the greatest disappointment of all yesterday. They came into this game with a fair bit of hype behind them following a hugely encouraging start to their SPL campaign, and a win would have taken them to the top of the league. With that in mind then, you would think that Yogi Hughes' team would have been doing everything that they could to get the three points, but it would appear as though they were quite content to settle for the draw, which is certainly not the attitude of prospective league champions.
To be fair to Hearts though, they did make life very difficult for their opponents. Right from the off they flooded the midfield and made it nigh-on impossible for the likes of Liam Miller and Anthony Stokes to get a foothold in the game, but because of the aforementioned lack of bite up front, this only resulted in a very lacklustre stalemate. You got the impression that this game could have gone on all day without a goal.
Hibs will point to the fact that they had to make three changes to the side who'd been on such a good run lately as an excuse for not being at their best, but for me only the exclusion of Derek Riordan would have hindered them in any way. Indeed you could see the difference in their play when the little wind-up merchant came on in the second half - Hibs only began to even look like threatening a comfortable home defence when this change was made, although even then their forays upfield were few and far between.
Hearts had the better of a typically frantic first half, forcing several corners and set-pieces in dangerous areas. But in the absence of regular dead ball expert Craig Thomson (who was dropped to the bench in favour of namesake Jason), they were unable to take advantage of any of those.
During that opening period Hibs did pretty much nothing in an attacking sense, with only the truly incredible levels of mediocrity of centre-forward Colin Nish proving to be a talking point. Just how did that man ever become a professional footballer?
The second half was a slightly more open game, and as mentioned earlier when Riordan came on for the visitors it became more of an end-to-end contest, at least for a 20 minute spell towards the end of the match anyway.
The closest that either team came to scoring was just after the hour mark, when full-back Wotherspoon's long-range shot was deflected by Nish towards Janos Balogh's left hand post. The 'keeper looked to be beaten but somehow managed to change direction at the last minute to touch the ball onto the post. The ball then rebounded kindly for the 'keeper back into his hands.
Michael Stewart had been the only player on either side who had looked capable of playing football in the first half, and his energetic performance improved as the game went on. It's just a pity that no-one else in the Hearts team appeared to be trying as hard as the captain, otherwise we'd probably be talking about a morale-boosting Hearts victory here. Still, it was encouraging to see Stewart playing so well after the stick he's received lately.
Hearts did have one late claim for a penalty, which I did think looked valid at the time. However having seen Jamie Mole latching onto Hibs 'keeper Stack's fumble from Gary Glen's long-range shot on a TV replay, the decision not to award the kick was probably just about right, as Mole seemed to jump over the 'keeper and defender Chris Hogg as opposed to them actually bringing him down. Close call, though.
In the end, Hearts can't really complain with only managing to take a point from this game. Yes they had the upper hand in terms of possession and pressure applied, but they simply did not have the quality to turn that superiority into goals......again. Until that changes, then the entertainment value on offer at Tynecastle ain't going to improve any time soon, folks. Pity....
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Date:Sunday November 8 2009
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