Friday, December 31, 2010

Hearts v Hibs: For Whom The Bells Toll

Derby day and the form book goes out the window. It's a cliche to even quote that cliche now. But maybe it's true.

Hibs need it to be. Because right now Hearts look prohibitive favourites as the traditional New Year's Day derby returns to Edinburgh for the first time in 13 years tomorrow lunchtime.

The last time first footing the neighbours held this appeal you were probably living next door to a couple called Fred and Rose.

Colin Calderwood's reign at Easter Road has been far from comfortable with Hibs incapable of putting together a run of form and his constantly changing defence failing to deliver what the manager wants and what Hibs badly need. They always look like they're going to concede and that is draining the confidence of the whole side.

Not much sunshine in Leith at the moment.

Which, as always, is harder to stomach for Hibs fans when Gorgie seems to be positively aglow with the warmth of a team in form.

Hearts are undefeated since they brushed Hibs aside in the first derby of the season at the start of November. Suddenly Jim Jefferies side are looking up towards the Old Firm rather than over their shoulders.

Players like David Templeton will be relishing the chance to get at this Hibs team. It remains to be seen if the visitors will be able to cope.

Jim Jefferies will be on a mission to stamp out any complacency. But even old Jim might be looking forward to this one with just a frisson of anticipation.

But nobody would have expected this Hibs team to beat Rangers 3-0 at Ibrox. In coming back from two goals down on Wednesday night Calderwood will at least have seen some spirit from his side.

So Hibs are down but not yet out. Hearts are flying but not invincible.

Derby day in Edinburgh. Anything can happen. I've got to predict a home win. But when I head to the bookies I might just cover myself. Hibs could yet leave a few folk choking on their steak pie.

Elsewhere in the SPL

Aberdeen v Dundee United
Craig Brown gets his first taste of home comforts after two wins on the road. Is he turning Aberdeen round? Seems so. United impressed in the first half against Hibs but ultimately gave up a two goal lead. The New Firm, a new year and a new Aberdeen. Home win.

Hamilton v Motherwell
Everyone's getting in on this derby action. Hamilton haven't played for quite some time and have slumped to the foot of the table. New Motherwell manager Stuart McCall won't have been impressed with much of what he saw against Celtic on Tuesday. Could be a tight one but I'll go for a combination of McCall inspired boost and Hamilton's rustiness to deliver an away win.

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