Albion Rovers 1 McLaren (7)
Hibernian 3 Dobbie (42), Shiels (43), O’Connor (71)
HIBERNIAN recovered from a false start last night to secure their place in Saturday’s CIS Insurance Cup quarter-final draw with an ultimately comfortable third-round win over Albion Rovers on Hamilton’s synthetic pitch.
The Third Division part-timers shook Tony Mowbray’s reshuffled side with an early goal and it took some time before the Easter Road men regained their composure to maintain the encouraging momentum they have gathered under their new manager.
Clearly feeling this was a tie in which he could afford to tinker with his team selection a little, Mowbray handed an eyebrow-raising debut to his 37-year-old assistant Mark Venus in central defence. By handing a first starting appearance to 16-year-old midfielder Jamie McCluskey, the manager at least ensured the average age of his side was not increased too much.
Some early hesitancy in the reshuffled Hibs back four, which saw Gary Caldwell partnering Venus in the centre to allow captain Ian Murray to move into midfield, offered plenty of encouragement to a Rovers side who had defeated higher division opposition in the shape of Queen of the South and Brechin City in the two previous rounds.
David Murphy’s slack backpass in the opening seconds set the tone, Paul McManus pouncing on the error before having his shot blocked at the edge of the box by Alistair Brown, the young Hibs goalkeeper drafted into the starting line-up at the expense of his namesake Simon. The SPL side failed to take heed of that early warning signal and to the bemusement of their 1200-strong support they fell behind in the seventh minute.
Rovers forged a fine move down the left which saw John Bradford send Graeme McLaren surging towards the Hibs penalty area. With both Steven Whittaker and Caldwell backing off, the Rovers midfielder unleashed a dipping shot from 22 yards which looped over Brown.
Derek Riordan should have equalised five minutes later when he was played in by Caldwell only to scrape his shot wide and it was a generally laboured first-half performance by Mowbray’s side until they erased the growing anxiety of their followers with two spectacular goals in as many minutes just before the interval.
Stephen Dobbie seized on a fortunate break of the ball to lash home the equaliser from around 20 yards. Rovers keeper Chris Fahey was beaten again from the same distance a minute later, this time Dean Shiels providing the unerring long-range finish.
Hibs replaced Riordan and Dobbie with Garry O’Connor and 17-year-old Stephen Fletcher at the start of a second half which saw them completely dominate possession.
O’Connor and the impressive Shiels both struck a post with fine efforts before Hibs finally secured the insurance of a third goal 19 minutes from time. Shiels teed up O’Connor for his sixth goal of the season, the big forward turning well to lash in a powerful right-foot shot.
Albion Rovers: Fahey, Silvestro, Black, McGowan, Stirling; McKenzie, McCaul, Mercer, McLaren; McManus, Bradford (Selkirk 75). Subs not used: Yardley, Patrick, Connolly, Peat.
Hibernian: A Brown, Whittaker, Caldwell, Venus, Murphy; Shiels, Murray, Glass, McCluskey (Orman 74); Riordan (Fletcher 46), Dobbie (O’Connor 46). Subs not used: McDonald, S.Brown.
Referee: S Conroy.