It was advertised a party, but only one team was celebrating come full time…
Season 2013/14 was a hard one for those of a maroon persuasion. In administration, a 15-point penalty enforced and bottom of the league, by the time March came around it looked inevitable that Hearts would be playing Championship football the following campaign.
There were small positives to take, however, and Sunday, March 30th proved to be one of those rare happy days.
The fourth Edinburgh derby of the season took place at Tynecastle with the Jambos’ record standing at two wins and a defeat.
The league table didn’t make for pretty reading, with Gary Locke’s side 22 points off 11th placed St Mirren. Such was the gap, a defeat on this day would confirm relegation.
With one win in seven, the form guide didn’t look good. Hibs, however, were in the midst of their own poor run of form, having also won once in their last seven matches.
Manager Gary Locke told the press that he felt it would be a derby like any other, and Hearts’ troubles stemmed from over the course of the season and not just one game.
“It’s a big game but it’s not bigger than any of the other Edinburgh derbies as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s a game we’re looking forward to and I’d imagine Hibs will be the same. For me it’s not any bigger than the last one we played.
“People keep going on about the fact that Hibs could theoretically put us down. It’s not Hibs that’s going to put us down. Over the course of the season the 15-point deduction as been a big ask for us.
“I think that even without that, with the youthfulness of the squad we’ve got, it was going to be very difficult. It’s not one game that’s going to put Hearts down. Over the course of the season we’ve just not been able to claw back 15 points.”
Goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, a veteran of many a derby victory, wanted simply to win the game for the supporters.
“Every derby is a big game, for the bragging rights in the city, for the fans more than anything,” he said. “Obviously the situation we’re in, it’s a big game for us and we want to really win it for the fans.
“We’ve got good record against Hibs over the years. Even this year, games that we have won, two of them have been against Hibs. Hopefully we can carry that on into the weekend.
“Like I said, it’s a big game and it’s important for us to win, more for the fans and obviously the situation that we’re in at the moment.”
Hearts: MacDonald, Paterson, McHattie, D. McGowan, Hamill, Wilson, Stevenson, D. Smith, Carrick, Holt, Nicholson. Subs: Ridgers, McCallum, B. King, Robinson, Walker, McKay, McGhee.
Hibs: Williams, Maybury, McGivern, Nelson, Taiwo, Forster, Watmore, Handling, Collins, Stanton, Stevenson. Subs: Murdoch, Thomson, Harris, Cairney, Craig, Boateng, Heffernan.
Gary Locke made one change to the side that was beaten the previous Friday against Dundee Utd. Jason Holt returned to the starting line-up in the place of Scott Robinson, who moved to the bench.
The game kicked-off with an electric atmosphere and it took only six minutes for Tynecastle to completely erupt. Callum Paterson carried the ball down the right channel and swung in an inviting cross for Ryan Stevenson to head down into the path of Carrick, and he held off his man to stab past Ben Williams from deep inside the box.
First blood to Hearts.
The Jambos continued to press, with Ryan Stevenson proving a handful for the visitors. In the 10th minute he bulldozed his way into the Hibs box and, although his cut-back for Sam Nicholson didn't fall cleanly, David Smith pounced to curl an effort on target from the edge of the box, but Williams stood strong to make the save.
Stevenson continued to link-up well with the front three and went close with a snapshot from 18 yards after the half hour mark, but he couldn't connect cleanly enough with Carrick's lay-off to hit the target.
The visitors could've got back on level terms just before the 40th minute but passed up a glorious opportunity. Duncan Watmore showed great skill to wrong-foot Kevin McHattie on the bye-line and pull the ball back for the waiting James Collins, but the Hibs striker skied his effort from the edge of the box.
Hearts threatened again before half time when Ryan Stevenson tore down the left flank and moved the ball inside to Carrick at the edge of the box, but his quick turn and dig sailed over the crossbar.
It took a spectacular save a minute later to keep the game at 1-0. Nicholson hit a thunderbolt effort from all of 35 yards but Williams somehow managed to spring to his left and palm the ball to safety.
The second half continued at the same frantic pace that was displayed it the first. David Smith was inches away from doubling Hearts lead after 51 minutes.
Carrick slipped in the winger with a delightfully weighted pass but Smith fired across Williams' goal from an acute angle.
In an almost carbon copy effort, Smith went close again. He was played out wide by Ryan Stevenson in the 63rd minute before shooting low across goal from outside of the box, but again the ball fell inches wide of Williams' right-hand post.
To their credit, Hibs edged their way back into the game and began to see more of the ball. Jamie MacDonald had be alert to smother a Collins shot from inside the box, though a deflection from Jamie Hamill helped take the sting out of the ball. Moments earlier, Ryan McGivern connected with Sam Stanton's corner but he could only head wide.
At times it looked like Hearts were under the cosh but the men in maroon stood firm and defended resolutely. The game exploded back into life when Alan Maybury received his marching orders following a foul on Billy King.
It was King who would have another major say on the match's outcome with a goal in injury time. He was played through the middle and with acres of space rounded Williams and slotted home into the Gorgie Road end.
Full time and, despite the campaign's struggles, Hearts record their third derby win of the season.
The win kickstarted Hearts’ best run of form over the whole season, winning four out of the next five matches and drawing the other.
Relegation would finally be confirmed only five days later, however, despite a 4-2 win at Partick Thistle.
Sweeping changes would occur at the end of the campaign as the Jambos geared up for a stunning revival.
Things didn’t get any better across the city as Hibs’ form plummeted off of a cliff. They won two league games from Janaury to the end of the season, resulting in a play-off decider with Hamilton Accies.
Despite leading the first leg 2-0, they lost by the same scoreline in the return match at Easter Road before being sunk on penalties, and relegated.
What they said:
Gary Locke: Delighted. I thought the boys played really well. Near the end they put us under a wee bit of pressure but I thought we weathered that and it was great to see Billy get the goal so late. That was definitely one for the fans.
Dale Carrick: Unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to do that, since I signed for Hearts. It’s great to do it in a derby. I didn’t really know what to do with my celebration so I just went for it and went mad with the fans.
Tom English (BBC): This was an Edinburgh derby like few others, the footballing equivalent of Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas fighting over a comb. No matter who won, the bald truth of their respective plight was still going to be awaiting them in the morning.
Hearts' joy was palpable and deserved, but it was also relative. This thumping victory was a respite not a reprieve. They're going down, but to their credit they're going down with a fight. They scored the goals, created the chances, played with intensity and bite and relished the scrap in a way that Hibs simply did not.
Gary Ralston (Daily Record): The sheriff officers of the Premiership will not be kitted out in green and white after all as Hearts dug deep into their reserves for a deposit on survival dreams.
The Jambos saved themselves the embarrassment of having their top-flight status stripped from them with a rousing victory in front of their closest neighbours at Tynecastle
Skill and technique may have been lacking but the endeavour was not in doubt – and didn’t Hearts enjoy it?
Watch full build up, highlights and reaction on HeartsTV by clicking here.