BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBERNIAN ace Grant Holt has lit the touchpaper ahead of this weekend’s Edinburgh derby showdown by insisting Hearts must cope with the weight of expectation, cheekily adding: “We’ll see how they like the pressure.”
The Jambos have come into form under Ian Cathro, defeating Rangers and Motherwell with an aggregate score of 7-1 of late, while the Hibees slipped to a 1-1 draw against Ayr United at Easter Road on Saturday.
However, the 35-year-old is far from blown away by their city rivals and reckons their victory against the Gers was more down to Mark Warburton’s men being abject, rather than Hearts being irrepressible.
And Holt has questioned how they will cope will the favourites tag at Tynecastle on Sunday when the Scottish Cup holders arrive in Gorgie for a repeat of last season’s fifth round tie.
He said: “I watched the Hearts game against Rangers and, to be honest, I saw a bad Rangers team; a team that couldn’t keep the ball and couldn’t move the ball.
“To be fair to Hearts, they scored the goals and played well. But so they should, because all the expectancy was on Rangers. People expected Rangers to go there and win – but this time the pressure is on Hearts.
“We are the Championship team and they are supposedly better than us and in a bigger league – that’s what I keep hearing – so we will see how they like the pressure and we will see what happens on Sunday.
“We know how good we can be. We didn’t show how good we are against Ayr – but if somebody from Hearts was watching that, they won’t have learned anything about us from that game.”
Well-travelled Holt is no stranger to a fiery local derby, and is adamant the stakes are no different whether it is a raucous Anglian clash between Norwich and Ipswich or the more modest meeting of Rochdale and Bury.
And, as a man with a derby-day hat-trick on his CV, Holt is desperate to get back on the goal trail and help Hibs grab the bragging rights – and keep hold of their trophy.
He smiled: “I have scored in one or two in derbies! I scored a hat-trick in one major one, a Norwich-Ipswich game. But it doesn’t matter if it is an Edinburgh derby, a Glasgow derby or Norwich v Ipswich, it’s the same passion.
“I’ve played in Bury v Rochdale and, let me tell you, they are as heated too. It doesn’t really matter where it is, you don’t want to get beat by your rivals and you don’t want to let your fans down. Hearts will feel the same.
“A lot of the boys played in it last year and the atmosphere was fantastic – and the lads responded so it’s a game that we are looking forward to again.”
Holt is acutely aware that notching a precious strike in the derby will be the perfect way to end his own malaise in front of goal.
He has not found the net since scoring in a 2-0 win over St Mirren in October 29, with a frustrating barren spell now standing at 10 matches.
However, Holt has been around the block enough times to be sure his fortune will soon reverse.
He added: “I had one myself cleared off the line near the end against Ayr, which sums up my luck in the last few weeks – but that is football. I think I’ve had five chances cleared off the line and, after this week, we can make that six. My luck has got to turn around at some point!”