Hibernian take heart from win

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The Independent Online
Hibernian 2 Heart of Midlothian 1

Rarely have Hibernian savoured a victory more than yesterday's success which followed three successive defeats, including the 7-0 drubbing at the home of Rangers on Saturday. This was the perfect hangover cure on New Year's Day, and supporters and players alike breathed a huge sigh of relief on the referee's whistle.

This was as much about strength of character as footballing ability, and Hibernian went about achieving the win the hard way by conceding a goal to their fiercest rivals after only seven minutes. However, after a ragged opening 20 minutes, they became rugged and scored two exquisite goals before half-time.

Kevin Harper scored what proved to be the winning goal with just four minutes of the first half left with an exceptional volley fit to grace an Edinburgh derby. That Hibs did not make the task easier for themselves in the second half was due to careless finishing rather than any resistance from Hearts. It was a thrilling match that ebbed and flowed, with five bookings.

Hearts took the lead after seven minutes with a well-worked goal. Pat McGinlay, playing out of position at right-back, allowed Neil Pointon to drift away from him and, when Allan Johnston swept over a cross, the former Oldham player steered a precise half-volley past Jim Leighton, the eighth goal the Scotland goalkeeper had conceded in three days.

Hans Eskilsson had an excellent opportunity to put the match beyond Hibs midway through the first half when John Robertson presented him with an opening. However, the Swede failed to find the target.

Hibs badly needed a goal at this stage, and it came courtesy of the head of Michael O'Neill, playing his first match for almost a month, after a measured cross from Kevin McAllister.

Then, shortly before half-time, the industrious Andy Millen played a short free-kick to Darren Jackson and Keith Wright headed his pass into the path of Harper, who scored with a venomous volley.

Hibs dominated the second half but the agility of Hearts' French goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, and some lacklustre finishing meant they had to be content with what they had.

Hibernian (4-4-2): Leighton; McGinlay, Hunter, Tweed, Tortolano; McAllister, D Jackson, Millen, O'Neill; Harper (Evans, 89), Wright.

Heart of Midlothian (4-3-3): Rousset; McManus, Bruno, Ritchie, Pointon (Lawrence, 84), Mackay (Smith, 49), Fulton, Millar; Johnston, Eskilsson (Colquhoun, 58), Robertson.

Referee: W Crombie (Edinburgh).

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