Saints 5 Hibs 1 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Ando, Mooner, Doobs, Garters, Millar,
Davidson, Sheridan, Deuchar, Liam
Subs: Main, Connolly, Irvine, Swankie, Sheerinho, Sammy, Savo
Right then after the defensive debacles, shot-shy shirking strikers and piss-poor passers in midfield, along with any other literal descriptions of the mess we've seen over the last couple of weeks, tonight was a big game. Postponed from the dark winter days just after Xmas, this was the second time we'd faces Yogi's wonderkids in the league, although a CIS cup tie meant that the results were one win each in the encounters so far between us this season. For Saints the odds were seemingly stacked against us with our opponents tonight being, Sunday's gubbing at the Death Star apart, one of the form teams in the league this season and possibly the best hope of all us diddy teams in terms of pissing off the Old Firm by forcing one of them to finish third.
As well as the opposition to worry about, Saturday's defeat at Rugby Park had once more highlighted our frailties in defence - not the sort of thing you want to worry about going up against the likes of Riordan and Stokes. And just to add the icing to the cake, the only Saints striker to over the last fortnight had limped off with a knee injury just after the event - reports that Peaso was paralysed with shock at Saints taking the lead were wide of the mark. So we came to McDiarmid tonight with the underdog tag displaying from the back of the blue shirts. But if we were to take any heart going into the game it was that we've risen to this tag before to take something from a game and the fact that Hibs likes to play a good open game in theory meant we could play to our strengths rather than opt for the wonderfully entertaining route one approach. The other factor to come into play was how both sides would react to their weekend defeats and who had the mental fight to come back.
As it was, Saints turned into one of the best performances in years. Never mind the dodgy looking selection, or the poor form some players have shown beforehand. Tonight we destroyed Yogi's team and while they'll no doubt complain about the red card for Nish, the simple truth is that they were second best in every department tonight - well with the possible exception of the goalkeeper but that was mainly because our Smithy had hee-haw to do. Sheridan and Deuchar were simply immense up front with three goals between them while Liam chipped in with the other two. Defensively we were solid with one or two minor slip ups and the midfield harried, nipped and generally got up the noses of Rankin and co. There will be no criticism for me tonight - every single one of the boys in blue tonight did the business with the only cloud being the sight of the Doc being stretchered off with an injury near the end.
Peaso had joined Caff, Rustybitz, Hardie and co on the sidelines. That gave Del one dilemma to solve up front while there was also a question over the defence and whether he'd go for yet another variation on the Saints List of Centre-Half Pairings 2009-2010. Gary Irvine and Savo had missed out at the weekend and were sure to come into contention while Sammy's appearance from the bench pushed him closer to a starting slot, and the Doc's show for the sixty or so minutes he got also looked set to push him in for Sheridan. Elsewhere Liam and Swankie were in contention for the left midfield along with Sheerinho, although Fil still missed out. Mooner was back though after his hamstring had kept him out of the last couple of games.
Del opted for a defence of Cup-tie and Ando on the flanks as Grainger dropped out while Doobs and Garters manned the middle. The midfield saw no Jody as his stomach injury ruled him out but Mooner returned to partner Muzz in the middle with Liam in for Sheerin on the left and Millar, as usual on the right. Up front we had the strange pairing of Sheridan and the Doc - not exactly that inspiring. But then again, that might just show what we know. Hibs were missing Kevin McBride but otherwise Yogi had a full side to pick from with a familiar face in Paul Hanlon at centre-half alongside Bambi while Riordan, Benji the diver and Stoker were up front.
The game got off to a scrappy start with Hibs getting an early freekick from Davidson traded a minute later after Secret Agent Hanlon fouled the Doc. Liam fired in the freekick which the Hibs defence failed to clear properly and when the ball fell for the Doc he fired in a good shot that the keeper held. Saints were playing forward and not sitting back and we were like a team possessed. Liam, Sheridan and Millar managed to link up well in the 3rd minute but the ball was cleared. But a minute later Millar set up Mackay on the right and his cross was only half-cleared with Davidson heading the ball back into the box. He found Sheridan with his back to goal and he laid the ball off to the edge of the box where Millar left it for Liam and he fired in a great low drive straight into the bottom corner of the net to give us the lead.
Hibs look stunned at going behind and the large away support in the North Stand were pretty much silenced. Saints though went from strength to strength with Davidson playing a great ball through for Liam in the 6th minute but he was ruled offside. Sheridan and Liam linked up next on the left with Liam setting up Millar but the defence got over to settle for a corner. Liam played that short for Sheridan at the near post but again the Hibs defence managed to clear it.
Stokes won a soft freekick off Doobs in the 9th minute. But that was easily cleared and Saints broke up the park down the left and the ball was sent long for Liam up the wing. He sprinted forward before laying the ball in for Davidson who took it into the box. He seemed to have overdone it as the Hibs defence got back to cover but he played a lovely ball in and found Sheridan who played a brilliant flick past Smith in the Hibs goal, sending the ball into the back of the net to double the lead. A fantastic finish and just the sort of confidence boost he needed. The East Stand was going mental while Hibs looked like they'd been collectively elbowed in the face by Fatboy Boyd.
The attacks were all coming from Saints - the Hibs forwards weren't in the game and their midfield was about as much use as Mark McGhee at a cup quarter-final draw. Another break in the 13th minute from Millar saw him struggle for space as he got to the box and he squared for the Doc. He slipped but Davidson was there to get onto the loose ball although his shot went wide. A minute later and the Doc should have notched our third with a cracking drive from the right corner of the Hibs box that curved all the way and brought out a brilliant acrobatic save from Smith in the Hibs goal. The resulting corner ended in the usual foul against Garters. Mooner turned provider next with a great long pass for Sheridan who was harshly ruled to be offside. Then a minute later Sheridan reacted to a Bambi backpass and almost beat the keeper to the ball as the Hibs defence looked about as solid as an Ashley Cole alibi.
Next up a Smith kick out found Millar who linked with the Doc and he set up Liam. He missed but Mooner was there to follow up and almost beat the keeper to the ball. Mooner set up Sheridan next but he shot well wide. Hibs won their first corner just after that in the 20th minute off Cup-tie but the inswinger was well held by Smith. A minute after that and another long ball from Ando this time found Bambi caught in no-man's land and his backpass saw Sheridan sneak in again and almost beat the Hibs keeper to the ball. Deuchar tried his luck next as Smith went to clear another backpass but he skinned the Saints striker before clearing his lines.
Hibs were in total disarray though and we were all over them showing all the hunger of a pack of vampires that have just walked into a blood donor session. Davidson got into the box in the 25th minute and saw his shot blocked. The ball broke out for Mackay who set up Millar for a cross but Davidson headed wide of target. We won another corner after some more of Bambi's panic defending against Sheridan but again it was a foul against Garters who picked up a warning from the referee (strangely Hogg and co who tried to mount Deuchar at every opportunity were let off). A minute later and Stokes caught Millar from behind and earned a pat on the arse from the referee. Maybe Dallas was right about the lack of consistency.
As the half wore on we expected Hibs to hit back but there was nothing from the Edinburgh side. As for Saints the half hour saw Millar and Mackay link with the latter getting into the box and forcing a corner. Garters headed that one wide but at least it wasn't a foul against him. Liam won another corner that broke out for Millar but his shot was blocked. Then Liam released Sheridan down the left and he got into the box and fired in a powerful angled drive that was well held by the keeper - the difference between Sheridan tonight and his previous performances were like night and day. Even when Hibs tried to threaten they were relying on Saints making a mistake - Garters misjudged a through ball and lost the header with a Hibs player but Liam was there to clear.
Zemmama was obviously still feeling victimised from the weekend and a shove on the Doc won us a freekick in the 40th minute. Liam sent it long and found Garters but his header went wide. Up the other end Rankin took a tumble alongside Millar to win them a freekick but Garters headed it clear. Ando played a weak ball into the Hibs box in the 43rd minute finding Mooner but his shot was held. Hibs went up the park and a slip by Ando was covered by Mackay and we had to concede a corner. Garters and Mooner cleared it easily enough. The half ended with Saints temporarily down to ten men as Mackay was off receiving treatment but Hibs still couldn't capitalise on it.
Memories of leading at half-time at Tannadump and Hibs recent comeback against the Sheep were still fresh in our minds as the second-half began with no changes to either side. But Saints started as they left off and a bit of header tennis on the edge of the Hibs area saw the Doc win a corner. That was cleared from the near post out to Mooner but his effort went wide of target. A Hanlon foul on Sheridan (well done Paul) in the 48th minute saw Liam fire a freekick in but Smith came out to hold it comfortably enough. Two minutes later and Ando threaded a nice ball down the left which saw a Hibs defender slip up. Liam nicked in but his right- footed shot from the edge of the box was well blocked by the keeper's knees.
With 51 minutes gone we had the sight of something as rare as a Hibs cup win with a shot from Riordan. It came from a freekick that was played forward and half-cleared from Doobs. The ball fell for the wee nyaff Riordan but all he could do was blast the ball into orbit. Oh how we laughed. Sheridan and Davidson played a neat one-two next allowing Sheridan to break through between the Hibs defenders into the box and he fired in a good first-time volley that was well held by the keeper - it's amazing the difference a bit of confidence brings.
Millar had a run next and won a corner. Liam's ball in found Doobs but his header was held. Hibs broke quickly up the park and a good cutback from the left ended in a shot deflected off a Hibs player into the net - the linesman didn't hesitate to flag for offside as the Hibs fans behind the goal went mental (well at least they were still here at this point). Ando picked up the first booking in the 59th minute after Hogg took a tumble. Yogi made his first change with Benji the poodle replaced by PishNish. Doobs cleared the freekick easily and sent it long for Sheridan to run on but he was ruled to have fouled a defender (talk about soft). Liam argued about the decision and was lucky to be let off with a warning for dissent.
Hibs' second change saw Yomama off and the other Saints spy Wotherspoon come on to replace him. The sub managed to make a total arse up of their next break as he got to the corner flag to chase a long ball only to play the perfect fresh air shot. You just knew then it might be our night. Mooner set up Sheridan on the left next and he beat Bambi but was crowded out and lost the ball in the box. But a minute later another ball from Liam found Sheridan in space again on the left and he got to the byeline and played a great ball across the goal that beat the keeper and found the Doc waiting at the back post. One header later and the ball was nestling in the back of the net for our third with fully 25 minutes remaining. A fairly large portion of the travelling fans headed for the exit at this point.
As before the goal boosted our confidence. Garters headed a freekick wide and Liam tried a shot from distance that was held. Hibs broke up the park and Doobs made a slip up allowing PishNish into the box but Ando was there to win the ball back and clear the danger. But in the 68th minute the Saints defence was caught out by a simple long ball that found Stokes. He rounded Smith and despite Ando getting back poked the ball into the net for some consolation.
The disappointment wasn't to last though. Hibs won a freekick after Doobs and PishNish clashed but Smith held it easily enough. However the far side linesman called the referee over and after some deliberation the official called over PishNish and showed him a straight red. I didn't see anything but the story from the stand was that the Hibs sub had had a sly kick at Doobs while the referee's back was turned. As if Yogi wasn't in enough trouble, with 19 minutes remaining Saints broke forward again with the Doc winning the ball in the Hibs box. Despite being surrounded by defenders he managed to slip the ball to Sheridan and he fair blasted it into the roof of the net for his second and our fourth. The Hibs fans deserted their team while the Saints fans simply chanted "We want five!".
Riordan had a shot that Doobs blocked but it was a token effort as Hibs looked a spent force. Yogi's night got even worse as some words exchanged with the referee saw the Hibs manager sent to the stand. On the park though Saints were in total control now. Mooner had a good break and set up Liam but the pass was cut out. The Doc managed a couple of runs only to find himself offside. Savo replaced Sheridan in the 76th minute. Three minutes later the Doc won us a corner. The ball was played in and Deuchar seemed to be fouled. Either way the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Liam and despite the keeper getting a touch the ball was soon in the net for our fifth and his second of the night. More Hibees ran for their cars.
The closing stages saw us continue to press. Wotherspoon had a decent shot held in the 83rd minute but a minute later there was some bad news for Saints as a Hibs defender caught the Doc. He was down slapping the ground with his hand and after the ball was put out by the Hibs keeper there was a delay before Deuchar was stretchered off with what looked like a serious injury. He was replaced by Sammy and Del made his third change at the same time with a rare run out for His Serene Swankiness coming on for Davidson.
Two minutes from time a nice lay-off from Sammy found Swankie but his decent shot was held. Liam saw a freekick held by the keeper and then Swankie had another go as he got onto the end of a poor clearance but his effort was easily held. The game went into injury time and Mackay forced another Saints corner. Liam played it over and found Garters but his header went out for another corner and that ended in blocked balls from Sammy and Mooner before the referee decided to put Hibs out their misery.
Cheers and applause all round tonight. Absolutely no failures tonight and it's damned difficult to pick a MoM. The defence was excellent, the midfield ran their socks off with plenty of support for the front men while up front the Doc was a star. But for two goals and a massive improvement in his play my vote goes to Sheridan who showed tonight that I and plenty of others were wrong about him. Overall though the whole side worked wonders with constant pressure and showing the sort of fight and passion over the ninety minutes we've been missing in recent weeks. It's also set up a cracking return grudge match at Easter Rd in ten days time. But for now it's time to enjoy the best win in the SPL. Saints fear no one now.
Bring on the Dark Ones!!!!!
This Match Report is copyright Temple Of Saints - not to be reused without permission. Contact email@example.com.
Remember to vote on todays ref Brian Winter send marks out of 10 to firstname.lastname@example.org or just select a rating and press the button below ::