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Football: O'CONNOR IS FIRED UP FOR DERBY GLORY; Striker wants an action replay.

Byline: RAY HEPBURN

HIBS skipper Ian Murray is backing striker Garry O'Connor to have a major impact on this afternoon's Edinburgh derby.

The Hibs pair go into this afternoon's live televised clash after the disappointment of Scotland Under-21s European Championship defeat by Croatia at Easter Road last Tuesday.

O'Connor, 21, scored the first half goal that kept Scotland's hopes of qualification alive but Rainer Bonhoff's side couldn't quite overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg.

Murray believes O'Connor is getting back to his best after a frustrating 18 months when he failed to build on the progress that saw him ccalled into the Scotland set-up.

O'Connor grabbed a dramatic injury time winner when the teams met in the east end of the city inb August - and Murray is confident he can do it again.

He said: "It would be nice to repeat that last derby, in particular scoring the winner so late in the match, which left Hearts no time to come back at us," reflected Murray.

"It was good to see Garry's score on Tuesday and I felt we were really unlucky not to build on it and go through to the finals.

"But the great thing for Hibs is we have a striker whose confidence has been lifted by scoring at international level.

"I was saying to him after the match that, if he can take that into our games then it will be good for the club during the remainder of the season."

It's Hibs' first visit to Tynecastle since that memorable 4-4 New Year draw, when the Easter Road men surrendered a 4-2 lead injury time lead.

Murray said: "It's well documented that our form dipped after that dramatic afternoon against Hearts last season and we want to get revenge."

Hibs manager Bobby Williamson has midfield player Stephen Glass struggling with a calf injury and full-back Roland Edge will also need a late test on a knee knock.

He said: "The main thing is that we didn't have any injury problems with any of the lads who were away representing their country this week.

"Ian and Garry did particularly well on Tuesday night and I hope they can reproduce that sort of form against Hearts. They are certainly fired-up for it."

Hearts manager Craig Levein will have skipper Steven Pressley available despite the centre-back needing dental surgery after Scotland's humiliation in Amsterdam.

The international defender had two of his front teeth knocked out by Patrick Kluivert's flying elbow in the 6-0 defeat, but two temporary crowns will get him through today's derby and the midweek UEFA Cup tie against Bordeaux.

And there was more good news for the Tynecastle chief when both Robbie Neilson and Patrick Kisnorbo both returned to training after taking injuries in the 0-0 first leg against the French aces two weeks ago.

Hearts' boss Levein is determined to make sure his side are not distracted by Thursday's UEFA Cup clash with Bordeaux.

Levein said: "We haven't even mentioned the tie and won't be doing so until this vital game is over. Every league game is crucially important.

"Someone mentioned to me that the Old Firm game was much more important than the Edinburgh game but don't mention that to the two teams out there on Sunday.

"Certainly for our supporters it's not. Our fans want to win the matches against Hibs even more than they do the games against the Old Firm. This is the big one for them."

The Tynecastle club are stepping up on security for Hibs' visit, after the August derby was marred when a Hibs fan raced onto the pitch and made for referee Stuart Dougal.

Extra security is in place and Hearts are pledging to deal firmly with anyone who encroaches on the pitch.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2003
Words:628
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