First Team

On this day...

31st March 2020

A look back through the years on March 31st…

1990: Hibs 1-2 Hearts


What were the teams?

Hibs: Goram, Miller, Sneddon, Orr, Cooper, Hunter, Weir, Wright, Houchen, Collins, Mitchell. Subs: Findlay, McGinlay.

Hearts: Smith, McLaren, McKinlay, Levein, Berry, McPherson, Colquhoun, Mackay, Robertson, Foster, Bannon. Subs: Crabbe, Kirkwood.


How did it unfold?

Ian Paul (The Herald)

Even to be mentioned in the same sentence as the great Tynecastle hero, Willie Bauld, will be satisfactory to John Robertson, but the fact that he equalled the Bauld derby scoring record is more than a confirmation of his snapshot talents.

The wee man, whose style is entirely different from Bauld, is building his own legend for the Gorgie followers, one which might even endure as well as that of his brilliant predecessor.

His double against Hibernian brought his derby total to 14, but his season's total of 21 keeps him ahead of all challengers in the premier division.

Considering the firepower available in that league -- McCoist, Johnston, Gillhaus, Dziekanowski et al -- it is quite a tribute to his chance-taking.

It is hard to imagine, if he finishes the season as the league's leading goal-scorer, how he could be left out of the Scottish pool for Italy.

He came on at half-time in the B team against Yugoslavia last Tuesday and did well, but the competition in his area is fierce.

"I was disappointed at not starting the game, but all I can do is to try to keep playing as well as I can, scoring goals, and leaving the rest to Andy Roxburgh," he said.

The man enjoying his second term at Tynecastle -- he was bought back from Newcastle United for £750,000 -- has achieved his top-scoring status after having missed the first six weeks of the season through injury, and if any team regrets his return from the south it must be Hibs.

Yet despite his penchant for scoring against them, they managed to leave him unguarded and free to have a shot at goal early in the second half.

By then he already had scored from a free kick and you might have imagined he would be even more closely attended.

Not so.

From a corner headed on by Dave McPherson he found himself in isolation with only Andy Goram to nod the ball past.

He duly did his business and Hibs were as good as beaten, even if they did conjure up some remarkable misses before the end.

It was a mystified Alex Miller who shook his head at it all afterwards.

His demeanour illustrated the frustrations for a manager whose words clearly have fallen on deaf ears.

They don't always do what they're told, these young men.

Robertson was convinced that his first goal, a free kick sent around the defensive wall, would not have beaten a fully fit Goram.

"I think if he had been himself he would have saved it."

Goram, who had dislocated a finger in training, and had to pull out of the Scotland-Argentina game, may not have been at his fittest -- his grimaces late in the second half were evidence of some pain in his hand -- but he still did a fine job.

Even better, however, was Henry Smith, his oposite number.

Smith made some tremendous saves as Hibs tried to recapture a game that had slipped away from them.

They had thoroughly deserved their lead through a well-taken Mickey Weir goal, and generally promised a shade more than Hearts.

Their cause was badly hit by the injury suffered by Paul Wright who went off after a harsh tackle by Neil Berry.

Wright, who was having only his fourth outing since joining Hibs from Queen's Park Rangers for £280,000, may not have much of a season left.

He will be out for at least two weeks with ligament damage.

There were some other tough tackles from both sides, but generally this was just about the best Edinburgh derby of recent times.

The teams made genuine efforts to play the game rather than the man as has invariably been the case in this contest.

Players like John Collins, Weir, and Neil Orr for Hibs, and Eamonn Bannon, McPherson, and Gary Mackay for Hearts were finding space and time to play decent passes, to control the ball and look up (well, almost) and generally give the impression that we were watching a ball game.

At the end Hearts did their European hopes a lot of good and might even have hoisted themselves back into a championship challenging position.

But for a few hiccups this season they have looked a much better, more rounded side, than the one which enjoyed the European experience last season.


What happened next?

Two points for the win kept Hearts right in the title race, drawing level with Aberdeen in second and only four points away from Rangers in top spot.

Defeat would leave Hibs in sixth, nine points off Dundee in bottom spot.

The Jambos would stumble at the next hurdle though, drawing 0-0 with Dundee in a midweek Tynecastle encounter. Although that result would lift Alex MacDonald’s side above Aberdeen, Rangers added a further point onto their gap at the top.


2001: Hearts 3-0 Motherwell


What were the teams?

Hearts: Niemi, neilson, McCann, McKenna, Pressley, Cameron, Tomaschek, Makel, Boyack, Flogel, Kirk. Subs: McKenzie, Wales, Juanjo, Webster, Severin.

Motherwell: Woods, Corrigan, Okoli, Strong, Chiba, Adams, Twaddle, Hammell, Tonwsley, Elliot, Leitch. Subs: Connolly, Harvey, Nicholas, Ramsay, Lasley.


How did it unfold?

Ronnie Esplin (Press Association)

Hearts ensured themselves a top six finish in the SPL with a comfortable victory over Motherwell at Tynecastle.

Robert Tomaschek fired the home side into a first half lead with a stunning 30-yard drive.

Young Andy Kirk's second half double, both close-range headers, made it an easy victory in the end for a Hearts side who were superior to their opponents in every department.

The Tynecastle men went straight on the offensive and dominated the game almost from the first whistle.

The swirling wind inside the ground made things difficult for both sides but it was Hearts who coped the better and it was no surprise when they took the lead on 15 minutes.

Tomaschek picked up a headed clearance 30 yards out and almost casually drove an unstoppable shot high into the net past Stephen Woods in the Motherwell goal.

The home side should have doubled the lead a minute later when Colin Cameron's excellent pass split the Motherwell defence, leaving Stephen Boyack with only the keeper to beat.

The ex-Dundee player skilfully rounded Woods but as he set himself to roll the ball into an empty net Motherwell captain Scott Leitch recovered to put in a tremendous tackle.

The visitors were struggling and their plans were further upset on the half hour mark when Derek Townsley was stretchered off to hospital after landing awkwardly, and was replaced by youngster Keith Lasley.

Hearts began the second half brightly and soon had the visitors on the back foot with Boyack causing no end of problems down the right.

The visitors' defence held firm, restricting Hearts to few clear-cut chances, although Kirk's run in the 52nd minute which took him into the Motherwell box should have had a better end result than his weak cross which was easily cleared.

Motherwell were gradually coming into the game and Stuart Elliott sprung the Hearts offside trap only to stumble to the ground after rounding the keeper Antti Niemi and consequently the chance was lost.

Hearts' reply to this scare was to go up the other end and double their lead.

When Boyack's cross came in from the right the unmarked Andy Kirk rose to head a simple goal in from six yards.

There was no stopping the home side now and their third goal was almost a carbon copy of their second.

This time it was Robbie Neilson who provided a cross from the right for Kirk to head in unchallenged. 

It just was not to be Motherwell's day, summed up perfectly when a Greg Strong header from a Keith Lasley corner was headed off the line by Lee Makel.


What happened next?

With top six secured, Hearts went in search of European football. Third place was out of reach by 14 points, so it looked like the Jambos and Kilmarnock would scrap for fourth and the final UEFA Cup spot. 

A 1-1 draw with Dundee United at Tannadice followed a week later, allowing Killie to leapfrog Hearts into fourth. The race for Europe would go down to final day, and despite Hearts beating Dundee, Killie triumphed over a much-changed Celtic side to clinch the final European spot.



2012: Hearts 3-0 Aberdeen


What were the teams?

Hearts: MacDonald, McGowan, Grainger, Webster, Barr, Zaliukas, Hamill, Black, Beattie, Skacel, Driver. Subs: Ridgers, Prychynenko, Santana, Glen, Novikovas, Robinson, Holt. 

Aberdeen: Brown, McArdle, Robertson, Reynolds, Rae, Considine, Clark, Pawlett, Vernon, Mackie, Arnason. Subs: Langfield, Anderson, Megginson, Hughes, Chalali, Magennis, Uchechi.


How did it unfold?

Moira Gordon (The Scotsman)

It was a day for the Hearts supporters to enjoy. Goals from two fans’ favourites were enough to give them a comfortable win over Aberdeen and ensure that they will see out the remainder of the season crossing swords with the league’s best, rather than tussling with the rest.

A first-half goal from Ryan McGowan gave the Tynecastle outfit the advantage and, given that this was a side with the best home record outwith the Old Firm up against a team who have managed just two wins on the road, it was unlikely that they were going to be overhauled.

There was absolutely no chance of that once Rudi Skacel made the first of his telling goal contributions as the second half warmed up, and he simply capped a fine individual performance with another in the 89th minute.

Aberdeen manager Craig Brown insisted the Czech international was the difference between the teams, and on a day when both sets of players strung along the congested midfield area threatened to cancel each other out, his quality did help Hearts find a way through. But Aberdeen offered little in return and the Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald only really had one save to make, when a ball was plopped down onto him and he had to gather under the bar. The best Aberdeen chance came in the final few minutes when a Stephen Hughes free-kick was dinked over the wall and into space in the box. Scott Vernon reacted quickly to lose his marker and get on the end of it, but from close range he lashed the final shot high over the bar. With the score still 2-0 at that point, it was an opportunity squandered.

For Hearts, though, it gives them momentum as they head towards their Scottish Cup semi-final and gear up for an assault on the higher echelons of the league in the hope of European action.

“I have already said that if we get sixth then I want to be fifth and then we must fight for every point,” said Sergio. “The result was better than the performance. They fought for every metre of the pitch, but we scored early and we changed tactical positioning and then we controlled the game.”

The opener came from Ryan McGowan in the 27th minute. Danny Grainger skelped in a corner from the right and the young full-back attacked it at the back post, his header finding the net. It delighted the home crowd but Brown will have been unhappy with his players’ defending.

It was the telling point in a game which then swung decisively in Hearts’ direction. Hearts had reinstated key men such as Ian Black to their starting line up and began the game with a solid formation, with defenders Darren Barr and Jamie Hamill deployed in midfield as they sought to add some steel to the guile of the likes of Skacel, who was pushed up alongside Craig Beattie.

It was Skacel who ultimately stole the show, and while Denis Prychynenko made his first-team debut late on, it was the elder statesman who underlined the need for the club to reinforce the promise of the youngsters they hope to introduce next term, with the experience and quality of some older team-mates.

The cult hero plucked the first of his goals almost from nothing, finding space in a central area and unleashing that powerful left foot to leave Jason Brown helpless as the ball whizzed past him.

Sergio said everyone at Hearts was used to that kind of shot from Skacel, adding he would prefer to put the spotlight on the skills employed in netting the side’s third in the 89th minute. His first touch and slight feint sent his marker the wrong way and he was then able to get the strike in. “Only top-class players do things like that. He set up the goal with that first touch. When we are talking about things, like we know we need to reduce costs, that doesn’t mean Rudi can’t keep playing for us. Everybody wants Rudi Skacel in the team. 

Aberdeen were the latest side who proved themselves unable to contain them, but they were able to take one massive positive from their afternoon in the capital, when Russell Anderson made his first appearance since returning to the club. Coming on in the 76th minute, he was immediately handed the captain’s armband. He is the only player at the club to have played for the Pittodrie side in a cup final and with another semi-final looming, that experience and on-field guidance will be crucial. Provided the men in front of him can carve out more goal-scoring attempts than then managed yesterday.


What happened next?

A place in the top six claimed, Hearts set about trying to finish as high up the league table as possible. Four points separated 4th and 6th, with the Jambos sat in the latter.

A 2-1 win at Dunfermline a week later put more pressure on the teams above, with a fifth place finish and Scottish Cup triumph eventually secured.


To watch full highlights of all three games on HeartsTV, click here.