Football: McSwegan rewards brave Hearts

Hibernian 1 Latapy pen 42 Heart of Midlothian 1 McSwegan 79 Half- time: 1-0 Attendance: 16,976
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The Independent Online
A DEFT glance of Gary McSwegan's head was enough to restore equilibrium to an Edinburgh which put on its artisan rather than artistic face.

The Hearts striker silenced three quarters of Easter Road with an 82nd- minute equaliser, cancelling out Russell Latapy's penalty with a back header from Kevin James' flick-on which brought the curtain down on this piece of sporting theatre.

The renewal of hostilities after 16 months, during which Hibernian had been relegated and bounced back again while Hearts won the Scottish Cup, merely heightened the passion surrounding this fixture.

Scarcely anyone who had obtained one of the precious 16,000 tickets would have passed up the chance to take in the event which dwarfs all else in Edinburgh. The Oxbridge set may flock to the Festival but, for the Scottish capital's real citizens, this was the only show in town.

Yet there was little that was cultured about the opening stages as several players displayed a menace that made theatre critics look like pussycats in comparison.

Darren Jackson, a one-time hero of the Hibs support, had them off their seats roaring with anger after just 80 seconds. Jackson these days wears maroon after his transfer from Celtic to Hearts last April, and his scything tackle after 80 seconds earned him not only a yellow card but incessant taunts of "Judas" thereafter.

Franck Sauzee, the former Marseilles man, tested his compatriot Gilles Rousset five minutes later with a vicious free-kick, but the Hearts keeper was wise to his old friend's tricks. Another Frenchman, Stephane Adam, scorned a superb chance from Jackson's whipped-in cross. His team-mate, Thomas Flogel, was unlucky in the 39th minute when a fierce shot crashed off the post with the Hibs keeper, Ollie Gottskalksson, beaten.

Hibs came off the ropes in dramatic fashion two minutes later to forge ahead. Latapy's clever pass set up Dirk Lehmann and, just as the burly forward was poised to pull the trigger, Colin Cameron caught his foot and a penalty was awarded.

There are few people cooler than Latapy and the little Trinidadian sent Rousset the wrong way to uncork Easter Road's celebrations.

The second half was one-way traffic as Hearts sought to retrieve the situation. McSwegan possessed the greatest menace and his clever return ball to Steve Fulton seemed to have earned a penalty after the latter was sent tumbling by the substitute Paul Hartley, but the referee Stuart Dougal dismissed the vehement appeals.

As if to reproach their rivals for wasting all this pressure, Hibs came close to doubling their lead in the 64th minute when Fabrice Henry moved onto Hartley's lay-off and struck a sweet shot which smacked off Rousset's post. Henry squandered another chance after some fine skill from Latapy.

At the other end Gottskalksson superbly turned over James' header with 15 minutes left, but Hearts kept pressing and earned their reward.