IT WAS the kind of derby you couldn’t take your eyes off for a second.
But linesman Sean Carr did – and bungled the decision that would have handed Hibs a win.
Even from above the halfway line, 40 yards from the action, it looked to the naked eye like Oli Shaw’s crisp, near post clip had hit the underside of the bar and bounced down behind the line.
At the other end of Tynecastle, 3,000 away fans were screaming goal.
On the touchline, Neil Lennon, his backroom staff and their subs were up and punching the air.
Yet as green shirts wheeled away in celebration, referee Steven McLean looked to his assistant for the nod that it was a goal and got nothing.
Just like the Hibees.
Sure, so they came away in the end with the draw that keeps cemented in fourth place, five clear of their city rivals – and, as their fans sang joyously at the end, made it nine unbeaten derbies on the spin.
On a night like this, though, with so much more than mere points at stake, it still must have felt like a defeat.
It had been a lightning break, John McGinn bursting from deep in his own half to ping a pass over the top to Martin Boyle, who controlled on his chest and slipped an instant pass inside to Shaw, darting across the defence to fire high beyond John McLaughlin.
As the keeper turned and saw the ball bounce back out towards him, he grabbed it and held it to his chest.
On the touchline, Lennon screamed so long and loud at the whistler play had to be stopped for him to get a dressing room, the jeers of close on 17,000 home punters ringing in his ears.
It didn’t help his mood when he then turned round to the Sky Sports reporter positioned between the dugouts to have confirmed what most inside their bearpit of a stadium already knew.
Shaw’s shot hadn’t been just in, it had been WELL in.
It was the kind of defining incident that will heighten the clamour for the kind of Hawkeye technology they use in the English Premier League.
But to be brutally honest, in this instance it shouldn’t have been needed.
Still, everyone makes mistakes – and another two in the second half of a typically-frantic capital clash made sure it all ended goal-less.
First, on 50 minutes, Hearts winger Jamie Walker spun away fro, Efe Ambrose down the left, burrowed into the box and cut back for Kyle Lafferty, running onto the pass eight yards out.
Any kind of decent contact and it surely had to go in; but sadly for the man who snubbed Hibs to become a Jambo, that contact escaped him and the shot bobbled across a gaping goalmouth and wide.
That was as close as the home side came.
As for the visitors, they really should have made the goal-that-wasn’t a side issue ten minutes from the end.
Right in front of their own support, McGinn whipped in a vicious corner that McLaughlin came for through a crowd scene but got nothing on – and there was skipper Paul Hanlon, charging onto a free header, only for the ball to somehow sclaff off his temple and skid wide.
It was that kind of game, to be fair, one where everything was always just that bit off; the crucial pass, the timing of a tackle, the crucial finish, the linesman’s judgement.
On a freezing cold night, the surface greasy, they ploughed at each other from first till last, never classy but always, always committed to the hilt.
For the first half, maybe spurred on by injustice, Hibs were the team with all the energy, all the ideas, pocket battleship John McGinn calling all the shots in a frantic middle third.
Time and again the barrel-chested playmaker found space to ping passes in behind the back four, time and again the linesman’s flag pulled Shaw, Anthony Stokes and Boyle up short.
If any one of a string of bigger clubs get their way, this might well turn out to be McGinn’s final Edinburgh derby – and if so, he bowed out in style with a display that surely added another couple of hundred thousand onto the multi-million-pound fee his club will be entitled to demand.
As for Hearts?
Let’s just say they were a shadow of the outfit who’d torn Celtic apart 4-0 in their last appearance at this revamped arena.
Their fans, so frustrated through the failed experiment of the Ian Cathro era, must have hoped against hope that dynamic, high-pressing performance was a sign of things to come.
But you wonder if sometimes the footballing ducks just come into a row once in a blue moon to create results like that, because since then they’ve drawn 0-0 at St Johnstone and done the same here without ever coming close to the levels of THAT super Sunday.
Without suspended wonderkid Harry Cochrane, with versatile defender Michael Smith out injured and with winger Walker hobbling for the last hour of the match, they couldn’t get into a rhythm and should be delighted to get away unscathed – and although they’re not unbeaten in eight with five clean sheets in a row, they’re miles from the finished article.
They did have a late shout for a penalty when a ball bouncing around the Hibs box seemed to strike left-back Lewis Stevenson on the right arm, but to be fair only the crowd made a big thing of it.
Again, it had happened right in front of the hapless Mr Carr.
So maybe these things do even themselves out after all.
Though whisper that near Neil Lennon…
Randall 5 (Hughes 5)
Milinkovic 6 (Callachan)
Boyle 7 (Barker 2) (Matulevivius 2)
Shaw 6 (Murray 3)
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Hearts 0 Hibs 0: Jambos breathe sigh of relief as Oli Shaw’s disallowed goal proves costly for Hibs have 1107 words, post on www.thescottishsun.co.uk at December 27, 2017. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.