Hearts 2 Motherwell 0 extras: Hearts and Hibs at home; Sibbick looks like a ready-made Souttar replacement and remember to play the ball to Simms' feet

key issues and observations from Hearts’ 2-0 victory over Motherwell at Tynecastle, with goals coming from Andy Halliday and on-loan Everton striker Ellis Simms.
Ellis Simms celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Motherwell at TynecastleEllis Simms celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Motherwell at Tynecastle
Ellis Simms celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Motherwell at Tynecastle

Hearts and Hibs at home

It was a red-letter day in the sense that both Hearts and Hibs played at home on the same afternoon, with the same 3pm kick-off time and with crowds permitted. This combination of scenarios had not occurred since 2008 according to the historians. As one Hearts fans observed at Tynecastle before his side’s clash v Motherwell: ‘I suppose casuals aren’t so much of a problem these days.’ It still felt a significant occasion even if Motherwell and Livingston were not brining the biggest supports to Edinburgh. Their travelling numbers can be measured in terms of hundreds rather than thousands and so Police Scotland seemed relaxed about permitting the clash of fixtures. Fair play.

The experiment - if that is what it was – seemed to pass off without incident although it was a reminder, if any was needed, that the age of the neutral Edinburgh football fan going to one team’s game one week and the other the next is long gone. The stated crowds were healthy enough too: 17, 699 at Tynecastle and slightly less – 15, 480 – at Hibs v Livingston. They will of course both be playing in the city again on Tuesday when they meet each other at Easter Road.

Don’t pigeon-hole Ellis Simms

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Pigeon is the operative word. Like famous pigeon-fancier Duncan Ferguson, one of the coaches steering his career at Everton, the big centre forward is more than just a battering ram. As the saying goes, he has good feet for a big man. He looks a find for Hearts, who are craving a No 9 but one who is not simply one dimensional. On the evidence of his performance against Motherwell, that charge cannot be laid at the door of Simms, who scored in his first start since joining on loan from Goodison Park last week. Although tall, it was his clever play with the ball on the deck that caught the eye.

He proved a good foil for his side, eager – and able – to bring teammates into the game with his ball-retention skills. “I’m delighted for him – and it was from a good range as well!” said Robbie Nielson, in reference to the tap-in from Simms just before the hour mark that secured the points. “That’s the distance you want for your first goal. I thought he did well but the players still need to figure out the runs he makes and what he’s good at. Because he’s a big guy people think he’s a target man but he’s not really, he wants to run the channels and take it to feet.”

Toby Sibbick

Although signed with the expectation he would replace John Souttar in time, few imagined this would happen as soon as half-time of this match. Souttar, who has agreed a pre-contact with Rangers, was kept in at the interval after suffering a knock. Sibbick came on and looked very much at home in the heart of the home defence. His 45-minute cameo was an endorsement of the positive impression he left during his curtailed stay in Gorgie two seasons ago.

Neilson looked on the bright side when it came to Souttar’s enforced departure during the interval, something which got the conspiracy theorists’ tongues wagging. “I was planning on giving Sibbick some game time for 20-30 minutes, so he got a wee bit more,” said Neilson. “Sibbick did well. He looked good. His fitness levels are still to improve, he hasn’t played since the middle of November but he has the physicality we need.”

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