Hibs 1 Saints 3
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Ando, Craig,
Davidson, Savo, Deuchar, Swankie
Subs: McLean, Millar, Caff, Morais, Sammy
Sequels can be better than their predecessor - think Godfather 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens etc. So there was a wee bit of optimism for the faithful that could be bothered to make the second trip in four days to Easter Rd. While the defeat in the league had set some alarm bells ringing, looking at it again in the cold light of day (and with the help of the in-depth unbiased highlights from the BBC) there were plenty of positives for the boys to take. All we had to do was master the knack of sticking the ball in the net - something we'd done with great aplomb in the previous round of the competition. Of course it might also help if we kept the ball out at the other end and given some of the woeful defending that led to the goals on Saturday, there was no doubt that Del had made use of words like "concentration" and "tackling" in his pre-match pep talk.
As a game though this was sheer brilliance - well the last 89 minutes at least. All the parts of the side that were found wanting on Saturday came through with Muzz and Jody playing out of their skins, the defence looking comfortable and Garters even managing to avoid a booking. This is the sort of fighting performance we've been looking for all season and tonight we got it in spades in a game packed full of action. If we deserved a draw at the weekend, tonight we thoroughly deserved what turned into an easy passage into the quarter-finals. Everyone played their part in the win and with the backing of the faithful Del was rewarded with a convincing performance from the players on the park and the ones that came off the bench. Make no mistake, this is the just rewards for the nearly-ran games we've seen so far this season.
The stats from the weekend had shown that we had dominated in terms of shots, corners and matched the Hibs for possession - it was just that "goals" thing that eluded us. Filipe had missed out due to a bout of man-flu while Caff had seen his involvement cut to 85 minutes in an attempt to stop the likes of Riordan and Stokes going mental at the sight of blood. He was fit but faced a late fitness test to ensure he could head the ball clear (cue jokes about not doing that on Saturday anyway) while Fil had only done some light training. They'd been joined on the doubtful list by Chrissy Miller with a swollen thigh and the usual unnamed player. Saturday had seen us start with a 4-5-1 formation and served us well until we lost the goal and only once we had two up front did things improve. Tonight saw Del go for several changes with Sheerin, Irvine and Hardie all out. Swankie started on the right wing with a 4-4-2 formation seeing the Doc and Savo start up front. Ando was the surprise choice at the back as Caff settled for a place on the bench with fellow injury worries Millar and Morais for company along with Sammy. For Hibs, their selection of squad numbers 1-11 showed that they were at full strength with even the returning Nish missing out.
The opening stages of the game couldn't have been much worse for Saints. With the first attack from the home side a ball from the right saw both Craig and Danny out of position and when the shot came in from the left Main could only parry it and there was the bane of Embra night-clubs in Stokes to prod the ball home. It would have been funny if it hadn't been so tragic - I mean you'd be lucky if there was 45 seconds on the clock when the ball crossed the line. Even the Saints fans behind the goal had a bit of doubt creeping into our minds.
But the sleeves were rolled up and we hit back with a couple of crosses from Grainger and Swankie to little real effect while the defence looked as shaky as they did at two down on Saturday. Time for a moment of magic and up stepped his Swankiness to oblige. Six minutes on the clock and Deuchar laid the ball out to the left where Liam met it first time and sent a deep cross over. The ball broke clear and there was his Swankosity unmarked on the edge of the box. The Blessed Right Foot struck the ball as sweetly as a sugar-coated Jody and blasted the ball past Stack and into the far corner. One-each and suddenly it was game on.
Hibs took the game back to us and got a decent break a minute later but Ando recovered well to settle for a corner that the defence cleared. Up the other end and a Grainger freekick was headed on by the Doc for Liam who seemed to be held in the box but referee Richmond was having none of it (although his whistle saw more use than a Dundonian STD clinic as the game wore on). We were hitting Hibs on the break but to no avail with the defence dealing with the loose balls or the referee intervening with dodgy offsides (hard luck Liam). A long ball forward for Savo in the 13th minute was handled by a defender. Swankie fired in the resulting freekick but it broke off the wall and Grainger's attempt at the rebound went wide.
We had a claim for a penalty in the 14th minute when Mackay played a cross in for the Doc but despite Bamba trying to have carnal relations with him the referee decided against it and when the ball broke Davidson saw his shot held. Hibs had a couple of corners but caused us little real trouble while at the other end Saints managed the odd shot in between avoiding the attentions of Bamba. Savo tried his usual overhead effort but Stack comfortably held it and then in the 20th minute the Doc set up Swankie but his shot was screwed wide. Two minutes later we won a corner thanks to the efforts of Davidson, Danny and Swankie. Stack had to settle for punching it clear but again there was no follow-up from Saints.
Riordan managed to get the ball in the net in the 25th minute but was a mile offside - it didn't stop him kicking the ball away though like a petulant teenager but the referee took no action. Saints were creating plenty of chances of their own with the Doc heading wide and Mackay and Savo trying to set up chances. With half an hour on the clock the Doc set up Savo but his shot was well blocked and as both the Doc and Swankie followed up Stack blocked one shot and held the other.
You almost thought it was going to be one of those games again and that was compounded two minutes later when a break down the left for the home side saw Mackay out of position. The ball had run ahead of the Hibs player but as Garters came over to cover a minor shoulder contact was enough to send him to the deck. It took an age but the referee decided it was a penalty and pointed to the spot - about as soft a decision as you'll ever see. Still there was some justice as Riordan's spot-kick was brilliantly held by Main.
That was the turning point in the game and you could see the frustration of the home fans start to seep into the players while Saints grew in confidence. Swankie saw a shot go wide before Danny was the first name in the book for a late foul. He was almost joined by Garters as the defender and Ian Murray tangled in the box but the referee let both off with a warning. Main held the cross comfortably. As the half drew to a close we kept pressing with Savo and Swankie linking up for the latter to shoot wide. Swankie and Davidson dropped back to clear a corner and when we broke up the park the Doc was just too late to connect with a perfect Grainger cross. The half ended with some smiles as a Stokes run ended in a cheeky backheel - pity there was only blue shirts nearby.
No changes at the break and Saints started the second-half well although Davidson was on the end of a heavy challenge within a minute. The freekick went wide to Liam and his cross was headed back across the goal by Garters for the Doc but again his header was cleared. A minute later Swankie was in the box and sent a shot across goal for Liam and his return cross for Savo saw the striker hauled to the ground by Bamba - again the referee decided against a penalty - a decision that earned Del a warning from the official. Next up was a foul against Ando which provided a chance for Riordan to show more petulance as he continually tried to move the ball forward. It didn't do him any good as the freekick went out for a corner that Liam cleared.
Back on the attack and the Doc saw a header held and then Jody, whose passing was pure perfection, set up Swankie but his square ball across the box found no takers. Jody picked up the next booking in the 54th minute for a foul on the edge of the Saints box - the wall did it's job in blocking the freekick and despite a Stokes dive the referee waived play on. The next chance for us came just three minutes later with Swankie in the Hibs box managing a turn and shot that was deflected out for a corner - otherwise he might have had his second of the night. That was cleared and Ando gave the ball away allowing Hibs to break quickly with Stokes eventually shooting across goal.
Yogi went for broke bringing on Zebedee for McCormack and the sub caused us some problems with his pace. Del made his first change on the hour mark as Filipe replaced Swankie. We were still creating the majority of the chances as the Hibs began to run out of ideas. A 63rd minute freekick into the Hibs area found the Doc who just missed. Hibs broke up the park and played a dangerous ball across Main's goal that the keeper missed but Jody was Mr. Cool personified as he casually cleared the danger while under pressure. Main had to hold another Stokes effort from distance but as the half wore on the confidence amongst the Saints fans and players grew.
Murray was first to try his luck with a snapshot in the 67th minute that Stack did well to parry. Then a Deuchar layoff for Morais was just cleared. Hibs forced a couple of corners but didn't really cause us any problems before Mackay became the next player in the book in the 71st minute. Del took the opportunity to make another chance with Chris Millar coming on for Liam Craig as Morais moved to the left-wing - the word inspired will be used in the papers in the coming days. Miller (the Liam variety) had a decent shot held by Main and McBride picked up the home side's first booking in the 75th minute.
But a minute later it was time to smile as a Grainger throw from the left found Morais. He controlled the ball beautifully and broke into the box before laying the ball off to his right. In came the unmarked Chris Millar and cool as feck fired a low shot in past Stack into the net to make it two- one. The kiss on the badge was just the icing on the cake really as the Saints support behind the goal went mental.
Hibs hit back with a header wide of target and a one-on-one with Main that the Saints keeper scissor-kicked out of the ground. They were throwing everything forward but in the 79th minute we wrapped it up with the sort of style and panache you'd associate with a Paris Fashion Show rather than a pissy wet Easter Rd. Davidson had been fouled in the middle of the park (Del making his final change during the break in play as a cramp-struck Ando was replaced by Caff). The freekick forward found the Doc in the box and he laid the ball down for Morais. His shot was blocked before Savo came in on the angle to try his luck, forcing a corner off the keeper. That was played in for Davidson but his header was somehow cleared off the line. It only broke to the edge of the box and Jody Loveofmylife Morris was there to hit a volley so sweet it almost sang his theme song as it rocketed past Stack into the net. Three one up and the home stands began to empty big time - Jody didn't mind as he celebrated in front of us.
Unfortunately despite out pressure as the game drew to a close there was no further scoring, in fact no real action. Stack provided some entertainment in reacting to the "Who's the poofter in the pink" chants but with Saints on cruise control and Hibs simply out of ideas and any sort of fight it was just a matter of running down the clock - even referee Richmond didn't seem to be too bothered by hanging around for much injury- time. Plenty of cheers and praise at the final whistle and the players thoroughly deserved their plaudits tonight. MoM for me was close with Swankie and Murray playing brilliantly and the defence looking solid but Jody Morris edges it for a cracking goal and the sort performance from a midfield general that should see him rechristened Napoleon. Tonight was a team effort though and all the players played their part, working for one another, never giving up and fighting and closing down every loose ball. That's the sort of show that will keep us up.
So a nice cup win tonight - what's the odds we get the bloody OF in the quarters?
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