Scottish football fans are being treated to a bumper derby weekend and this afternoon's Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle will not have went down well with football purists.
Hearts entered this game on an excellent patch of form that has propelled them closer to the Old Firm. The Jambos have won 8 from their last 9 games and are creeping up on the big-two going into the new year. The same could not be said for their Edinburgh rivals Hibernian who have made an appalling start to the season and Colin Calderwood's side have not won since mid-November.
Jim Jefferies has galvanised Hearts in the first-half of the season and the in-form Jambos are gaining deserved plaudits for their performances. Youngster David Templeton has blasted on to the SPL stage and is quickly becoming the hottest property in Scottish Football after some dazzling performances. The regular side has been built on stability following years of Romanov toying with Lithuanian's galore at Tynecastle and today's starting line-up contained five Scottish players.
However, it was a Lithuanian youngster who changed the game in the second-half with some moments of quality to light up a dull affair. 19-year-old midfielder Arvydas Novikovas replaced the ineffective Templeton with 11 minutes to go and played a huge part in Hearts' late chances. First, he supplied a dangerous low cross to the back post but Gary Glen squandered a stunning chance from just a few yards out. Hibs just did not get close to the Lithuanian international and his neat wing-play supplied an inch-perfect cross for Kevin Kyle who netted with just four minutes remaining.
The previous 86 minutes had been mostly dominated by Hearts but the tempo of the game was hampered by numerous fouls early in the match. Hibs captain Ian Murray was lucky to remain on the field when he poleaxed Ian Black and left the Hearts midfielder needing intense treatment. The disruption to the game was helping neither side and Hearts were unable to create any chances despite having the majority of the possession.
The second half started just the same way as the first ended with the home side dominating the possession. Rudi Skacel produced a stunning save from Mark Brown after his in-swinging left-foot free kick had Brown scrambling to the top corner to keep Hearts at bay. The visitors just did not have a look-in and Calderwood's decision to bring on Colin Nish almost had a huge impact on the game with the former Kilmarnock striker missing easily Hibs' best chance of the match on 69 minutes.
Despite clear deficiencies in the Hibs side, the two central defenders in green and white, Francis Dickoh and Paul Hanlon, were both having a superb game considering the amount of pressure they were under. A major problem for Hibs was their inability to retain possession for spells in the game and hold the ball in the oppositions half. Derek Riordan was non-exsistant in the game and Calderwood should seriously consider letting the 16 out of contract players walk away in the summer and just starting from scratch.
A mixture of class from Novikovas and a lapse in concentration from the Hibs back four paved the way for a late Hearts winner and it came through Kevin Kyle who met Novikovas' fine cross perfectly and head home into the net before celebrating with the Gorgie faithful.
Unfortunately, these early kick-offs never seem to be work in the favour of the football purists and we have probably yet to see a decent game that has kicked-off just after midday.
Sympathy must go to Colin Calderwood who has a near impossible job to rebuild Hibs for the second half of the season.