Halliday silences Hearts doubters, big-game McKay, Hibs struggles in defense & attack – How the players rated

Here are how the players rated from the match:

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In the opening stages, it isn’t an understatement to say the Hibs midfield two of Joe Newell and Jake Doyle-Hayes were excellent. They dominated in the middle which allowed the visitors to enjoy a lot of territory in the middle and attacking third. The combined with the front three with the wing-backs pushing up, constantly playing around corners or one-twos to bypass and overrun the Hearts midfield pair of Andy Halliday and Peter Haring. The home side were miles off it.

Ellis Simms battles with Paul Hanlon. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

However, Robbie Neilson’s men built into the game. While Peter Haring was loose with some of his passing from him it was the Austrian who showed composure, facing his goal under pressure and playing out before winning a crunching tackle which set Hearts down the left for the equalizing goal. He then set up Stephen Kingsley with a clipped ball for the second. Goals one and three were scored by midfield partner Halliday.

It was the way they chipped away, getting control of the pass, lateral passes to calm things down, ease their way into the game before dominating with the ball and making themselves hard to play through without it. They may lack the legs and running power of Cammy Devlin but their experience, especially in a game of this manner is invaluable.

Halliday, in particular, deserved his standing ovation, thanks to his industry and two well-taken goals. He has slowly but surely won over the doubters in the Hearts support, while silencing the Hibs support who were quick to remind him of the 2016 Scottish Cup win when they defeated Rangers.

Both teams had defenders who weren’t quite tuned to the pace of an Edinburgh derby despite having experience of the fixture before. Toby Sibbick, one of Hearts’ best players the last time the teams met, began the game too slowly. With the ball he would take one touch to many or hesitate to split a second which is long enough to have a player on top of you in a derby. Out of possession he needed to engage Hibs quicker. But he settled and then improved.

The same couldn’t be said for Rocky Bushiri. He picked up a knock in the first-half and looked uncomfortable throughout. There was one moment he made a hash of a simple clearance then aggressively made up for the mistake. The on loan centre-back did well to make it difficult for Ellis Simms to get a clean shot away when sent through by Barrie McKay in the first 45 minutes but he was wayward and rash after the break. A pass out of the park, nowhere near a team-mate summed up the afternoon for Hibs.

Paul Hanlon was very good at intercepting and reading those McKay through balls but will feel sheepish with his part in the Hearts equaliser, being barreled over by Simms who set up Andy Halliday.

Without Christian Doidge and Kevin Nisbet, 20-year-old Elias Melkersen had the responsibility of leading the line. Aided by the dominance exerted by those behind him, he was able to use his movement to lose Craig Halkett a couple of times. That left to right run to the front post to meet a cross was used but he steered the ball over the top and wide. But the Hearts centre-back won the battle overall. There was no contest when the ball was played to the Norwegian with his back to goal. In one v one duels there was only one winner. Halkett recovered from an early slip in possession to stroll through proceedings.

Hibs lacked a player in the mold of Barrie McKay. Someone to take the ball on in the final third, hold onto it, keep it under pressure, commit players and look to penetrate. The former Rangers star, who this week signed a contract extension, plays the game at his own pace. While everyone else is running around at 100mph, he’s floating on an inflatable donut around the lazy river sipping a Pina Colada.

He set up Simms for a great chance in the first half with a wonderful through ball. There was a reverse pass to put Alex Cochrane into a dangerous crossing position and the back heel to set up Andy Halliday for the third.

There were some questions asked about his performances in big games. I have answered those.

Hearts: Gordon 6; Sibbick 6, Halkett 7, Kingsley 8; Atkinson 7 (Moore N/A), Haring 7, Halliday 9 (McEneff 6), Cochrane 7; McKay 9 (Ginnelly N/A); Boyce 7, Simms 7 (Mackay-Steven N/A).

Hibs: Macey 6; Bushiri 3, Hanlon 5, Doig 7 (Scott 5); Cadden 6, Doyle-Hayes 7 (Henderson 5), Newell 6, Clarke 6; Wright 6 (Campbell 5), Mueller 4; Melkersen 5 (Jasper 6).

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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