Hibs 1 Saints 1 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Moon, Doobs, Ando, Millar,
Davidson, Doc, Sheridan, Craig
Subs: Main, Connolly, Irvine, Morais, Sheerinho, Sammy, Savo
There was plenty to be grateful for going into today's game. Firstly since it was away from home there was little chance of it being called off and an even remoter chance that Chic the Pric and the investigative journos of the West Coast Mafia would be able to blame it on Saints - mind you we were playing a fellow East Coast team so the likelihood of the BBC Glasgow crowd even heading out of their Govan bunkers was about as likely as one of the Bigot Bros players being able to go on a night out without being beat up by their sporting rivals. Anyway the other main reason to be glad of this afternoon's encounter was the opposition. Yup it was time to face Yogi and his ever-diminishing squad (with their players seemingly racking up red cards at the same rate their shedding points) as Hibs - or as Del likes to call them "My Bitches" - provided the opposition today.
Of course it wasn't going to be easy and the chance of us repeating the five-one scoreline of the last encounter was up there with the odds of the game getting any more coverage in the Monday tabloids ahead of the inevitable 32-page sports pullouts celebrating the latest display of Wegie sectarianism - but then again stranger things have happened. Saints hadn't played since the last meeting between the sides and while Hibs had tried to master the Fir Park Swamplands, their efforts last weekend were in vain as they continued to drop points. As well as all that pre-match hype today also marked the last game at Easter Road in the shade of the old East Stand which is about to be demolished to make way for a new 6,000-seater stand for the start of next season.
The game perhaps lacked to plethora of goals we've enjoyed in previous games but there was plenty of drama, controversy and opportunity to slag their keeper for the Saints crowd. While most of us would probably have taken a draw before kick-off, it's hard not to feel disappointed after we dominated the game for long spells and came back from losing an early goal to almost snatch a winner at the death. The was little missing in terms of form from the Saints players as we ran the midfield again and looked as solid as ever at the back as we coped with the pseudo-Fir Park mess that passes for a pitch at Easter Rd (it almost looked like the bulldozers had started work early given the ruts on the pitch). Even if he's feeling hard done by with the result, the manager can be more than chuffed with the performance.
Saints injury worries had eased a bit as but with the Doc and Sammy making the squad along with Fil (the former a real surprise and possibly the result of some mind games from Del). Jody missed out which meant that Cup-tie Mackay captained the side. The other surprise absentee was Garters with Grainger replacing him as the only change from the side that destroyed Yogis mob last time out. However, the weather had again disrupted preparations as Perthshire was inundated with so much snow even Chic the Prick's verbal hot-air system would have struggled to thaw the pitch out. The main question was whether or not Del's new-found confidence in the side after the 5-1 win would translate to an attack-minded formation or whether he'd resorts to the solo striker again - especially since the word revenge was being used in the Hibs pre-match talk - no worries there as the new-found confidence in the side manifested itself with Sheridan and the Doc up front.
For Hibs, despite the bans and red cards, Pish Nish was allowed out to play before his violent conduct ban kicked in. Yogi was about to enjoy his last match in the dugout before his ban kicked in (well pending the inevitable appeal) although whether or not he'd keep his temper in check today remained to be seen. Liam Miller had also resorted to a sending-off last week to avoid having to face up to the Mighty Mooner but Yogi played hardball and an appeal to the SPL using the "we're a big club and he's an ex-OF player" get-out clause saw that overturned. McBride returned to their midfield in place of Rankin while Bambi was still at the back alongside Hogg as Hanlon missed out.
There was a big Saints support through for this one (especially given the conditions) but any latecomers missed the first real piece of action. A simple 2nd minute attack from the home side saw Pish Nish break through the middle with the Saints defence all at sea. He got into the box and rounded Smith but went to the deck anyway as Smithy got to him. A straightforward penalty decision for the referee and a yellow card for the Saints keeper. Stokes stepped up to send Smith the wrong way and give them the lead, keeping up his good scoring record against Saints. Not the best of starts for us but the chants of "only 5-1" from the Saints support showed that we still believed.
We tried to hit back in the 4th minute with a Millar cross finding the Doc but his header was cleared by an alert Hibs defence. The referee was involved in more controversy in the 6th minute as a tackle from Moon on Miller saw the Hibs player cry for his mammy again and Mooner booked. The freekick into the Saints box was easily dealt with by Doobs. Two minutes later Bambi picked up their first booking for a heavy challenge from behind on the Doc - the first of several challenges on him which all, for some strange reason, seemed to target the Saints striker's ankle. Liam's freekick was blocked by the wall. Tempers were starting to fray and Stokes took a dive against Liam a couple of minutes later leading to some handbags with Miller raising his hands - but the referee decided the cards had had enough of an airing (either that or he didn't want to offend Miller in case there was another appeal).
Saints were kicking up the slope but struggled for pace up front. Doobs set up Sheridan in the 11th minute but he lost out in the chase with Stack in their goal. Liam pounced on a loose ball next and threaded Sheridan into the box but Bambi came over to barge the striker off the ball. Next up another Bambi foul on the Doc set up another freekick for us. The ball was sent wide right for Millar to pass to Mackay and his cross was headed on for the Doc at the back post but his shot was well held by the keeper. Sheridan saw a low cutback cleared and then in the 17th minute there was more controversy in the Hibs area. A long ball found Davidson in space on the left and he got into the box with his back to goal and won the ball off Stack. He was forced wide as Stack manhandled him out of the box eventually conceding the freekick. Liam's effort found Mackay at the back post but his header was cleared and that allowed Hibs to hit us on the counter with Riordan doing one of his weasel-faced runs down the left, breaking into the box but firing in a selfish, weak shot that the defence blocked. It led to a spell of Hibs pressure (well about 30 seconds of it) and it was only eased when Wotherspoon fouled the Doc (ankle again).
We were playing some decent balls for the strikers but while they were winning headers they weren't getting enough on the ball to turn it into a shot. Millar and Mackay linked in the 19th minute and the Doc headed it down for Sheridan but Bambi managed to clear. We were almost punished in the 21st minute for a poor kickout from Smithy but as Pish hesitated over a shot Mooner stole in with all he skills of a Leith burglar to nick the ball off him. Another Liam freekick found the Doc in the box but again Stack managed to gather. Chances were at a premium and the game was in danger of getting more and more scrappy as neither side could string more than a few passes together.
Millar saw a cross held in the 26th minute then a poor Stack kickout found Sheridan but poor control saw him lose the ball. Another Millar cross after half an hour saw Sheridan's first touch a weak one and the ball went behind for a goal kick. Liam won our first corner a minute later but as is usual with Saints corners that ended up with a foul against Doobs (obviously Garters wasn't there today so they needed an alternative). Millar and Mackay teamed up for another effective cross from the right finding the Doc but his header down for Liam saw him lose out with Stack.
Next up Hogg clobbered the Doc and from the resulting freekick Liam found Mackay and his cross ended up with a claim for handball that the referee ignored. Grainger saw a cross cleared and then five minutes from the break Bambi hacked the Doc again. This time the freekick over to the right was headed back across goal and found the Doc in space but his shot was a weak one and cleared. Hibs ironically finished the half stronger with Pish going on a run and beating Ando but his eventual shot was easily held.
No changes at the break and the second-half had a fairly even start. Our first chance came two minutes into the half when a long ball forward saw the Doc beat Bambi to a header and the ball fell for Millar but his effort from the edge of the box was blocked. Hibs seemed happy to hit us on the counter-attack and were defending fairly deeply but even so Riordan got behind the Saints defence a couple of times though thankfully was flagged for offside - it was easy to see that we were riding our luck a bit.
The best chance so far came for us in the 49th minute as another freekick forward was headed out to the right only to find Mackay who took one touch before firing a dipping volley that went just over the bar. Sheridan had a chance next as he got onto the end of another long ball but his first time shot went wide of Stack's right-hand post. Pish picked up a booking for a foul on Doobs next and then just after that had a major dive against Davidson.
Millar set up Sheridan in the 53rd minute but his run in the box saw him forced to settle for a corner and Liam's poor effort was easily cleared. A Miler barge on Mooner next went unpunished in terms of cards. The freekick though was sent long into the box and found Doobs but his header was easily held. Pish had another argument with Mackay next as the Saints player went to take a throw but again the referee turned into Mr. Lenient. That changed on the hour mark as Davidson picked up his card for a foul on Stevenson - a nothing challenge but that was enough for referee Muir to turn all petty.
Saints were sticking to the route one approach and it was working to an extent. In the 62nd minute, a long ball found Sheridan on the flank and he laid the ball back for Mooner. His cross was cleared but only to Millar at the back post, but Chrissy forgot how to kick the ball and sclaffed his shot well wide. Millar had another run in the 66th minute sending a good cross in from the right for Davidson which saw him up- ended in the box. No penalty. Wotherspoon broke up the park and had a good run but Grainger pulled off a great tackle before he could shoot.
Hogg was the next player in the book for a foul on Liam. The freekick saw Bambi revert to type and totally sclaff his clearance giving us a corner. That was half-cleared but Saints hit back as Mackay was clobbered. The freekick ended in a header across the goal before it fell for Mackay but his shot was deflected over the bar. The corner was again half-cleared ending up with Mooner but he was tackled before he could shoot. Hibs broke up the park through Weasel Riordan but his shot was held by Smithy. The same player had another go in the 73rd minute breaking down the right and managing to round the keeper but his finish was cleared for a corner.
Saints continued to press though both strikers were suffering on the heavy pitch. A freekick in the 76th minute saw Millar set up Mackay for a cross aimed at the Doc but again Stack managed to gather. Liam Miller sent a freekick wide for them while Chrissy picked up a booking for dissent. With 11 minutes left Del made a double change as Grainger and Sheridan made way for Sammy and Fil with Liam dropping back to cover. Morais had a good run almost immediately setting up the Doc. His cross was cleared. Sammy won a corner a minute later but this time Stack could only tip it clear. There was more trouble for Hibs as McBride needed treatment after the collision in the box.
He eventually went off dazed but Yogi hesitated before making a change. With Hibs down to ten men and with seven minutes left, Millar broke down the right again sending a cross in for Davidson only for (and you'll like this) Liam Miller to try and palm the ball clear. The referee saw the handball and pointed to the spot, booking Miller although Hogg's protests and chasing to the official almost saw him get a second yellow. Plenty of pressure on Liam Craig for the penalty with Stack trying some psychological mind games and back chat in the build-up. It didn't work though and Liam hit a sweet kick straight through the middle to draw us level.
Suddenly it was game on for both teams. Zemmama replaced McBride but apart from the odd attack we were finishing the stronger side. Bambi mucked up a clearance four minutes from time as Mackay set up Millar. He had a couple of crosses cleared but eventually a throw- in saw Millar send a good ball in for Davidson but his shot was deflected wide. Millar set up Sammy and Davidson next but they were just offside. Then Sammy set up Morais for a run down the left. He got forward and played a good cross over which broke for the unmarked Millar at the other side. He fired in a good angled shot but that went just wide of goal. Hibs had a couple of attacks but these caused Smith little trouble although the home fans by now were frothing at their mouths looking for another penalty. As it was though we nearly nicked it deep into injury time with Sammy making a good run down the wing before cutting inside and firing a low drive that the keeper held. Then Morais on the right had a nice dinky run before putting in a good inswinger cross that beat Stack and went just wide of his other post.
It was a good show on a poor surface against a fired-up Hibs side. A draw is a bit of a disappointment given the chances we were creating as only our finishing let us down. But for all that we have been out of action for a while and the referee's blind sided behaviour (at least as Doc was being targeted) didn't help matters. Defensively we were solid enough although a bit slow on the ball at times. The midfield were outstanding with Liam getting my MoM. But Jody will struggle to get his place back as both Mooner and Muzz played well. Up front it wasn't a great day for the strikers but both the starters played well and Sammy looks almost back to his best, especially taking the pish out of Bambi. It's good to see the confidence and fight in the side continuing and hopefully Del can keep this going for the rest of the season.
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