Beattie’s the bhoy to break Hibs’ hearts!
Tick tock, tick, tock … It’s been 110 years since Hibs won the Scottish Cup – and Hearts fans reckon you can make that 111! As they see it, it’s going to be Gorgie glee and not sunshine on Leith come 5pm on 19 May.
Hearts have the upper hand in derby encounters over recent seasons – the unbeaten run now stretches to ten games and you have to go back to three long years to find the last time Hibs tasted victory in an Edinburgh derby through a Riordan penalty. There are good reasons for that Hearts dominance.
When it comes to the big occasion, Hearts players rise to the challenge where Hibs seem to wilt and wither under the pressure. Hearts seem to want it more and even seem to expect it now – there’s a superiority, a swagger and a confidence when Hearts face Hibs. And in the lead-up to the most talked about Cup Final in living memory, Hearts have better players than Hibs all over the pitch.
Take the respective defences. The Hearts defence is settled, reliable and packed with experience. Hearts goalkeepers have also made the headlines for the right reasons – unlike poor old Hibs: Malkowski or Makalambay, anybody? Hearts have nothing to fear from a powder puff Hibs attack.
In midfield Hearts also hold all the aces. While Hibs’ engine room is full of lightweight players who flatter to deceive with fancy flicks and nice touches – which seldom come off – in Ian Black Hearts have a combative wee warrior (Hibs fans call him other things) who will boss, bully and dominate the centre of the park. Games like these need a grafter, a battler. Hibs don’t have one – Hearts have Ian Black.
Up front, Hearts have the edge too. Big game player Rudi Skacel has a fine record against Hibs and in Craig Beattie Hearts have a fine striker with all the attributes you need to win games. He’s sharp, has a fine shot and is good in the air. When chances come, he takes them. Hibs defence has tightened up over recent weeks, but they are still prone to the odd error and you can be sure that any weaknesses will be exposed on Hampden’s wide-open spaces. Both Hibs full-backs like to get forward but leave space at the back – and when Hearts wide players get in behind them there will be opportunities aplenty. Hearts will create chances and, with the firepower available at Gorgie, Hibs will be punished.
Yes, Hearts have had better seasons but given the ongoing wages problems and persistent reports that all is not well financially, that’s hardly surprising. Having said that, Hearts have still had a better season than their old rivals! In Paulo Sergio Hearts have an astute young manager and, if he’s left alone to do his job without interference from ‘on high’, he’s already shown that he can get results and Sergio has a fully fit and highly motivated squad to choose from. Unlike the Hibs, Hearts have not been involved in an end of season dogfight and have had a perfect preparation in the build-up to the Cup Final.
And there’s no doubt about it, Hearts got to the final on merit – they took on Scotland’s best team by far, and not only matched Celtic but deservedly beat them. Celtic had no excuses, and how many of the current Hibs squad would get a place in that Celtic team?
Hearts face their oldest rivals on 19 May full of confidence. Better players, better form, better manager, great recent record against Hibs, fine performances at Hampden behind them – everything points to a comprehensive Hearts victory, and the sweetest cup win of them all.