LIAM Craig got the first hat-trick of his career as he eased Hibs into the fourth round of the League Cup but there were other reasons to be cheerful for a side working to put their wretched early-season form behind them.
Manager Pat Fenlon was delighted to see Craig, a summer addition, provide goals at three key points in the game but he admitted that Abdellah Zoubir threatened to steal the show. The Frenchman was making his first start for the Easter Road outfit and caused a ripple of excitement as he ghosted past defenders and created chance after chance in a golden first-half period.
“It is unusual,” said Fenlon. “Obviously, Liam got a hat-trick of good goals but Zoubir, in the first half in particular, we got him on a lot of ball and we shifted him out a little but wider and I think he got a lot of the ball. He is difficult to play against. He has very, very good feet, his balance is really good and he is strong. He did well in the air for us as well and had a chance in the first half and another in the second half with a header. He’s a good player.
“He is different to what we have and it was good to get him into the game tonight and give him a taste of the atmosphere and I think the supporters will enjoy watching him over the course of the season.”
But it was Craig’s goals that made the difference on a night when Stranraer pushed Hibs all the way. With two goals already in the bag, it was a penalty which gave Craig his hat-trick, as he got in ahead of James Collins and Rowan Vine to take the spot kick.
“Liam and Rowan and James all want to take them,” Fenlon said, happy to see hunger and self-belief in his players. “Liam was on it there and they sorted it out between themselves but the three of them do take a lot of penalties in training and they practise a lot so there’s competition there.”
But, while Craig cashed in on his opportunities, there were players in Stranraer’s ranks who could have emulated his feat had they been more clinical.
“It was a decent game tonight,” said Fenlon. “Give them a lot of credit as well. They played really well and scored some decent goals and there was a lot of chances at both ends. Maybe 7-6 would have been a bit fairer.”