WILLO Flood admitted he was in two minds last night as he shaped up to shoot in the dying minutes of last night’s 1-0 victory over Aberdeen. The Irish midfielder’s 25-yard strike handed Aberdeen an eighth victory in their last nine matches.
The win takes Aberdeen to within ten points of league leaders Celtic. Perhaps more significantly, it has created a four point gap between the Pittodrie side and third-placed Motherwell, who play Hearts this afternoon.
Flood was conscious of Aberdeen assistant manager Tony Docherty’s complaint that he does not shoot enough from distance. But manager Derek McInnes was shouting at his players from the sidelines and asking them to be more considered in their approach play rather than simply letting fly. To Aberdeen’s great benefit, he ignored his manager and instead followed Docherty’s orders. Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams barely saw the ball as it flashed by him into the corner of the net with just three minutes left.
“Tony Docherty is always on my case about not scoring enough goals,” said Flood. “So I had him in my head when I was going to shoot and hopefully that shuts him up.
“He’s a hard man to shut up but that should keep him quiet for a week or two. The manager had said not to shoot from distance but it opened up for me and I just felt like going for it.
“It was a good goal but I’ve scored a few over the years so I can’t say where it ranks. It’s great to score another late goal and shows the spirit the boys have to keep going because we knew the clock was running down.
“I’d asked the referee how long was left and he said ten minutes so we knew it would take something to win the game. We’re doing well but there’s a long way to go. Motherwell, Inverness and Dundee United are all good sides and they’ll come back at us.”
McInnes was glad that Flood had gone against his wishes and decided to try his luck from distance. Nothing else had worked as both teams sought to break the deadlock. There was even parity when it came to penalty appeals – one for Hibs, and one for Aberdeen. Both shouts looked sound.
The visitors were vexed when referee Craig Thomson waved play on after Paul Heffernan tumbled in the box when attempting to round Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield. Later in the half Michael Nelson handled a Peter Pawlett cross in the box, but again the referee was not interested.
Both managers felt that the quality of the goal was such that it deserved to win the game.
“It was a goal fit to win any game,” said McInnes. “We had good control of the second half but hadn’t worked their keeper often enough. I’m delighted at the perseverance of the team. I always feel there’s a goal in us but more importantly the players feel that.
“Late winners are always welcome but the hallmark of the team is their will to win games whether it’s early or late,” he added. “I actually told them not to bother shooting from distance too much as they had a lot of bodies in that central area. But a hole has opened up and it’s been too inviting for him. It was such a sweet strike – he’s caught it flush and celebrated it well. I thought he was great tonight. Eight wins out of nine is good going and even in the game that we lost to Motherwell I was happy with how we played.”
Terry Butcher also admired Flood’s goal and said it was a fitting winner. However, he still felt it should have been defender better by his players, who were slow to react to the player as he shaped to shoot. “It is the worst we have played since Maurice [Malpas] and I came to the club,” said Butcher.
“Sometimes you need a slap in the face like this. They should have had a penalty as well according to TV,” said Butcher. “I couldn’t see when the cross came in who it hit. Obviously the cry was handball. We thought it was maybe a case for a penalty at the other end for us but it has evened itself out.”
The Hibs manager admitted it was the first time that he has felt the need to get angry with his players after a match. Not for the first time in his career Butcher vented his rage inside the away dressing room at Pittodrie.
“I had a go at them tonight,” he reported. “A few eyebrows went up and there were some scared faces. A few things slammed about. But I wanted to show that I do not accept a drop in performance like that – naughty boys.”