Webster gains point but not a place

Hibernian 2 - Heart of Midlothian 2
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The Independent Online

Andy Webster may have claimed a share of the Edinburgh bragging rights for Hearts with his dramatic late equaliser at Easter Road yesterday, but the feeling is that Hibernian will be the side polishing their language skills in Europe next season.

Andy Webster may have claimed a share of the Edinburgh bragging rights for Hearts with his dramatic late equaliser at Easter Road yesterday, but the feeling is that Hibernian will be the side polishing their language skills in Europe next season.

Tony Mowbray's side virtually killed off the Uefa Cup ambitions of their rivals, who remain eight points behind the Scottish Premier League's third-placed side, with four games left. Derek Riordan's second-half goal for Hibs was fit to win any game, but Webster's late header levelled a pulsating derby.

"The draw was a fair result but, looking at the bigger picture, it was a far better point for Hibs than us," said the Hearts manager, John Robertson. "We needed to win this match and pull the gap back."

The Hibernian fans sensed that they, and not their rivals, would be playing in Europe next season and were taunting the visitors by throwing beach balls on to the pitch. But on eight minutes the real ball nestled in the Hearts net to hoist the decibel level around three-quarters of Easter Road.

Garry O'Connor's emergence this season has seen him restored to the Scotland side, and his 15th goal of the campaign was visibly savoured. Riordan won a corner, which he then delivered into the box. It was cleared only as far as Scott Brown, who threaded a pass to O'Connor who stabbed the ball past Craig Gordon from just three yards.

Hearts refused to dwell on the setback and began to take the contest to their hosts. Mark Burchill was unfortunate not to equalise seven minutes later when he met Paul Hartley's free-kick and struck the base of the post.

Hearts, though, restored parity after 23 minutes with a goal of sumptuous quality. Deft passing between Hartley, Steven Pressley and Neil MacFarlane allowed Burchill to flick the ball on to Lee Miller, who eluded Gary Smith and rifled and angled shot into the roof of the net.

Hibernian were rattled, and the visitors might have gone in front had the Hibs goalkeeper, Simon Brown, not denied Webster's header with a fine parry.

Hibernian stepped up the tempo in the second half as they put their rivals under intense pressure. Amadou Konte produced a clever turn to create space, only for his shot to be beaten away by Gordon. Konte then had the ball in the net, only for his header to be ruled offside.

Hibernian's momentum earned its fitting reward in the 63rd minute when Riordan conjured up a sublime goal, driving into the Hearts box before thrashing a left-foot shot high past Gordon.

Hibernian were in command and ought to have added to their lead. Gordon proved equal to Riordan's curling effort and a volley from Dean Shiels before Hearts punished the home side in the 88th minute.

Hartley's disguised free-kick somehow picked out Webster, and the towering Scotland defender stooped to steer a header past Brown from just six yards. However, in the chase for Europe, it was probably too little, too late for Robertson's side.

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