Craig Cairns casts his eye over the weekend Scottish Cup ties at Tynecastle and Ibrox, which both ended all square – the replays are on Tuesday.
Hibernian’s diamond dominates again, even though they leave it late
Hibernian took to the Tynecastle pitch for the second weekend in a row, sticking to the same diamond formation as they had versus St Johnstone. Their only personnel change in the middle of the park saw them drop Fraser Fyvie in favour of Marvin Bartley. Whereas Fyvie is a tidier, possession-based midfielder, the bustling Bartley gave them a bit more steel in the centre of the park for a match which turned into a real battle.
They lined up against the now familiar lopsided 4-4-2 deployed by Robbie Neilson. Prince Buaben took up his role as a right midfielder, though was replaced early on due to injury by new signing Don Cowie. Sam Nicholson returned on the left wing and Osman Sow was not risked ahead of his move to China, so Abiola Dauda made his debut alongside Gavin Reilly in attack.
Just like last season’s Edinburgh derbies, Hibernian dominated the early stages and came close with a few opportunities. A close-range header and an offside strike almost had them ahead, while Neil Alexander was forced into a good stop after John McGinn cut in from his position on the left.
In the blustery conditions, Hearts weathered the early storm and were ruthless at the other end, converting their first two chances of the match. The Jambos have shown a tremendous ability to score from long range over the past two seasons and Arnaud Djoum’s rifled effort was the ninth they have finished from outside the box this season alone.
The cross came via the head of Lewis Stevenson though was initially played into the box from deep by Callum Paterson. The imposing full-back likes to get forward and has markedly improved his distribution in the final third this season. He played a pin-point cross-field pass to pick out Sam Nicholson for Hearts’ second 10 minutes later. Without playing well, the Gorgie side found themselves two goals ahead with half-time looming.
The second half was entirely dominated by Hibernian. Hearts reverted to a 4-5-1, moving Reilly to the right of midfield, in an attempt to preserve their lead. It worked to an extent though they struggled to gain any meaningful possession.
When Alim Ozturk was replaced by Juwon Oshaniwa due to another injury, Alan Stubbs’s side sensed an opportunity. Rangy full-back Niklas Gunnarsson was brought on to replace David Gray as Hibs sought to exploit the change in the Hearts defence.
Prior to this, the narrow nature of the Hibernian midfield meant they struggled in wide areas, accentuated when Hearts moved to five across that area. Gunnarsson immediately played higher up the pitch than Gray and his presence gave Liam Henderson the space to cross for Jason Cummings to pull one back.
As noted, the Hibees caused problems from corners in the first half and racked up several more in the second period. Their constant pressure finally paid off when Paul Hanlon knocked in the equaliser in the 91st minute. They remain undefeated in four matches versus Premiership opposition this season.
Honours even at Ibrox
Lee McCulloch made five changes for his first match as Kilmarnock’s interim boss but stuck largely to the formation of his predecessor. Two quick wingers in the form of Rory McKenzie and Tope Obadeyi started on either side of Greg Kiltie, while Josh Magennis looked to use his pace and power to take advantage of Rangers’ high defensive line.
When out of position, McKenzie would track the runs of Lee Wallace. When Killie regained the ball Kiltie and Magennis attacked the space vacated by the marauding full-back and almost took the lead early in the match. Kiltie crossed for the Magennis, who had made a near-post run across his marker, and he nodded agonisingly wide.
This has become somewhat of a trademark for the Northern Ireland international, who scored from an almost identical move versus Hearts in the League Cup earlier in the season. In all, five of his 10 goals this season have been assisted through crosses and a further three from corners. He made several similar runs throughout the game but it was never matched by a similar whipped cross from his team-mates.
Rangers dominated the rest of the match but were unable to break down a sturdy backline. Unchanged from the previous match, their front three were kept surprisingly quiet, with only Barrie McKay looking like he would inflict any damage.
Wallace may leave a dangerous amount of space behind him but this is often compensated for by his goal threat. He ran on to a well-timed pass from McKay and almost added to his six goals this season, for their best chance of the first half.
Kilmarnock sat deeper and deeper as the match progressed and as Rangers piled on more pressure. They passed up a number of half chances, with the best again coming via some clever play from McKay. He found Martyn Waghorn in the box after a driving run but the prolific striker failed to control the ball in a promising position.
McCulloch’s men are the first team to stop Rangers from scoring this season, chalking up just their fifth clean sheet of the campaign in the process. The teams will replay for a chance to face either Dumbarton or Dundee in the quarter-final.