- Hearts maintain record of scoring in every home game this season
- Jambos go 16 points clear at top before Rangers face Dumbarton
- One win in last eight Edinburgh derbies for Hibernian
- Hibs won just four of their last 28 trips to Tynecastle
- Cummings put Hibs in front but Walker levelled for Hearts in first-half
JAMIE Walker’s stunning strike earned Hearts a draw with Hibernian in the 2015 New Year Edinburgh derby as the Scottish Championship leaders dropped points at home for the first time this season.
The 21-year-old – on his 100th career appearance – sent an unerring 20-yard effort past keeper Mark Oxley to equalise for the hosts five minutes before half-time.
Jason Cummings had given the visitors a deserved lead midway through the first half by guiding Scott Allan’s delightful cross into the bottom corner.
Both sides went close during an even second period but neither could find a precious winner.
Hearts remain the only British team unbeaten in league competition after dropping points for the first time since the last derby at Easter Road in October – and only the third time this term.
Head coach Robbie Neilson expressed his satisfaction with a point following the third capital derby of the campaign as the Jambos – the stand-out team in the second-tier – maintained their grip on top spot with a comfortable 16-point lead over second-placed Rangers.
Meanwhile, Hibs manager Alan Stubbs – who said in the build-up his players’ confidence was at “an all-time high” – felt his team should have won for the fourth game running after dominating the first period.
The Leith side have not beaten their cross-city rivals for 12 months and have not come away from Tynecastle victorious since May 2013 – but it was another positive result in a morale-boosting run of form which stretched to one defeat in 16 games.
Buoyed by last weekend’s comprehensive victory over Rangers, an unchanged Hibs team made a fast start in Gorgie as Cummings tested Hearts keeper Neil Alexander inside 16 seconds after seizing on hesitancy from Alim Ozturk.
Another lapse of communication between Alexander and Jambos captain Danny Wilson almost presented another chance to Hibs as the hosts – who made two alterations from last weekend’s win at bottom-club Livingston – endured a nervy opening.
It was therefore unsurprising when Cummings latched onto a superb delivery by Allan – his fourth assist in two games – to cushion home a sidefoot finish for his eighth of the season and put Hibs in front on 23 minutes.
While Hearts made a series of unforced errors, confidence was flooding through the Hibs veins – and Cummings could have doubled the lead on the half-hour mark only to see his downward header travel inches beyond the post.
The disjointed hosts sought a response as Walker stabbed into the side netting and Callum Paterson dragged a long-distance shot wide but lacked the end product in the final third.
Although, their frustration was relieved when Walker – on his 11th Edinburgh derby appearance – drove inside from Adam Eckersley’s pass and unleashed a sizzling strike into the top corner.
Both scorers had been duly cautioned for their over-elaborate celebrations in front of the opposing fans – and could have seen red in the closing stages of the first half.
Cummings petulantly kicked the ball away after being flagged offside before Walker’s trailing leg caught David Gray late as he attempted to block a clearance.
The Hibs full-back – who is due for a groin operation on January 12 – made way for former Livingston defender Callum Booth at the start of a second half that Hearts began brighter.
Sam Nicholson raced down the right and crossed for left-back Eckersley to steer a header wide and inject some life into the already-electric atmosphere.
A scrappy spell ensued during which both sides had penalty claims ignored by referee Steven McLean – in charge of his third Edinburgh derby.
Danny Handling felt he was knocked over by Hearts’ derby debutant Miguel Pallardo as Lewis Stevenson’s cross arrived in the box before Morgaro Gomis went over under Allan’s challenge at the other end.
Chances were at a premium amid the electrifying tempo but Hearts provided more promise than their first-half showing.
Paterson’s looping header landed onto the roof of the Hibs net and Nicholson – who scored in the home win over Hibs in August – headed narrowly over from another Eckersley centre.
Both sides threatened a late goal as the tension increased – Prince Buaben’s speculative effort wasn’t far over the top for Hearts before Hibs went close on two occasions.
Booth’s goalbound shot from the edge of the box sparked frantic defending from the Jambos as Ozturk threw himself in the way.
Paterson was at full stretch to intercept Allan’s cross with 11-goal top scorer Dominique Malonga – playing in his final match before joining Congo at the African Cup of Nations – waiting to pounce at the back post.
The visitors handed Martin Boyle a debut just a day after his arrival on loan from Dundee but there was precious little time for the striker to have any impact.
For the second time this term, honours were even between the two Scottish capital giants but – with 19 points between them in the table – Hibs still enviously look up at their counterparts.
Substitutes: B King (for Walker 73′), Robinson (for Buaben 89′), Oliver (for Keatings 90+3′)
Booked: Walker (41), Buaben (50), Ozturk (78), Gomis (90+1)
Goals: Walker (40)
Substitutes: Booth (for Gray 45′), McGeouch (for Handling 67′), Boyle (for Cummings 84′)
Booked: Cummings (24), Craig (37), Allan (85)
Goals: Cummings (23)
Referee: Steven McLean (Scotland) – 8.5/10