The Hibs manager, who took over from Jack Ross in mid-December, said that he was proud of his team and admitted that he had tasked his players with being more aggressive after they lost 3-1 to their Edinburgh rivals on league duty last weekend .
But despite the improved performance levels, Hibs could not book a return to Hampden, finishing with ten men after a red card for Joe Newell midway through the second half.
“I thought the performance of my team was excellent, as good as it’s been in the time I’ve been here,” said Maloney.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them, what they gave me. After going down to have me I actually think we were the more dominant team. I’m extremely disappointed for the support that the result did not match the performance.”
As well as Newell’s dismissal, Hibs picked up four bookings in a full-blooded encounter and Maloney was pleased to see his players be more competitive than the previous meeting between the two.
“Last weekend there was a physicality and strength to Hearts that we had to match,” Maloney continued.
“We had to ask the players to play on that edge. They [Hearts] were physically dominant last week. Today that wasn’t the case.
“What you saw from our support at the end is something that I’ve not seen before. I’ve never seen a support give a reception to a team like that’s lost the derby. The players were fantastic. They have to match the strength and physicality that the Hearts players have and to do that, you have to play on the edge. My support can be very proud of what they saw from their team.”
Maloney had no complaints about the red card to Newell, saying that he understood why referee John Beaton made the call he did.
“I could understand it,” Maloney commented on the red card for second-bookable offense, a foul on Barrie McKay. “Joe was on that edge and he was trying to stop a counter-attack.
“It’s not ideal in these big games. It affected us for maybe five minutes but then we found a structure that allowed us to still be really aggressive.
“And after that we were very good and created big chances. That has been the difference, those chances, we do have to be more efficient and in the big games more clinical.”
While Hearts have a Scottish Cup final and European football to look forward to next season, Hibs have five bottom-six matches remaining. They appear safe from relegation, eight points clear of trouble in seventh in the cinch Premiership, and Maloney wants to see the same intensity for the rest of the season.
“I understand it’s a difficult situation with five games left, but we have to bring the intensity that we brought to every game,” Maloney added. “That has to be the culture that we set, or try to set. Part of the problem this season is that the performance level and desire and intensity has not been there, so no matter who we play, we have to do that.”
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