BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
It is not often the strains of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ in the wake of an Edinburgh derby can be construed as a positive for Hearts, but head coach Robbie Neilson believes Hibernian’s raucous celebrations at the weekend were proof of how respected his team now is.
The Proclaimers’ tune, which Hibs fans have adopted as their anthem in recent years, was cranked up to full volume in the away dressing room at Tynecastle on Sunday in the aftermath of the dramatic late rally that earned the Easter Road side a 2-2 draw in a riveting Scottish Cup tie.
Jason Cummings’ header 10 minutes from time and Paul Hanlon’s injury-time equaliser set up a mouthwatering replay on Tuesday after first-half strikes from Arnaud Djoum and Sam Nicholson had put Hearts into a position from which Neilson admits they should have gone on to win.
Hibs’ comeback was heartily enjoyed by Hibs players and supporters alike and, recalling Hearts’ reaction when Alim Ozturk’s stunning injury-time equaliser earned them a 1-1 draw at Easter Road last season, Neilson confessed they had every right to whoop it up.
However, he reckons it is also an indication of the standing his team now enjoy in Scottish football.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s trip to face Ross County and asked to reflect on Hibs’ changing-room celebrations, he said: “It’s a good sign, that. It shows us that a team coming to Tynecastle and getting a draw are ecstatic.
“It’s good for us to realise that is what it means to teams to come to a place like this and get a draw.
“But the tie is far from over.
“That’s football. We went there last season and got a last-minute equaliser through Ozturk and we were delighted with that. It’s human nature.
“It’s the same result for both teams but the way the outcome came about it is obviously better for one team. They are more than entitled to celebrate how they want.
“We lost the chance to get through. We lost the position where we should have won the game. Hibs have got every right to celebrate getting a draw and getting a replay after the position they were in.
“We have to be disappointed in that we should be seeing out games like that. We have done well at times this season from that position so it is another learning curve for us to do the right things in games like that and don’t allow teams back into it.
“But we are still in the cup, still in the draw. And we live to fight another day.”
Despite addressing the fall-out from Sunday’s game in his media call yesterday, Neilson insists the issue has been put to bed as far as his players are concerned as they face a hectic spell of three games in six days.
Tonight’s encounter with County, followed by Saturday’s home clash with Partick Thistle, will have to be safely negotiated first before the rematch with Hibs can be contemplated.
Neilson, who will be without central defenders Alim Ozturk, Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi for the trip north, added: “It’s important we refocus again for the Ross County game because it’s a quick turnaround.
“We have a couple of days in between then a quick turnaround before the weekend game against Partick, then again for the derby.
“It’s an important period for us. We have to keep positive, keep going.”