LEIGH Griffiths was presented with the match ball after recording his first hat-trick in senior football to help Hibernian into the last four of the Scottish Cup yesterday.
Scorers: Kilmarnock - Dayton (26), Heffernan (72 pen); Hibernian - Griffiths (15, 82, 89 pen), Done (39)
Bookings: Kilmarnock - Bell, Barbour (sent off), Sissoko, Gross; Hibernian - Claros, Stevenson, Done
Cammy Bell and Mo Sissoko should have been presented with a ball and chain, so criminal was their defending.
Griffiths deserves a lot of credit for his perseverance, as do his team-mates for their play throughout the game, particularly in the second half when the pressure mounted. But, for all that Hibs put the Kilmarnock defence under pressure, there was no excuse for the elementary errors by goalkeeper Bell and central defender Sissoko which ensured the Ayrshire side’s undoing.
The teams had drawn 2-2 in the league at Easter Road on Wednesday night, and for much of yesterday’s game were evenly matched. But together Griffiths’ opportunism and the defenders’ ineptitude ensured that Hibs became the fourth away team to emerge victorious from the four quarter-finals. The only difference here was that, while the other three teams won 2-1, Hibs won each half by that score.
Hibs boss Pat Fenlon made only one change to the team which had begun that 2-2 draw, bringing David Wotherspoon into midfield in place of Paul Cairney. The manager had hoped Paul Hanlon would be able to resume in defence, but the centre-half’s hip problem has proved more troublesome than first thought, so Ryan McGivern continued in the middle of the back four alongside James McPake.
It was the visitors’ defence who had more to do in the opening stages as Kilmarnock, unchanged from four days earlier, tried to take the game to them. Thankfully, both teams had resolved to play at a higher tempo than they had managed in a dreadfully lacklustre first half of the league encounter, but, having said that, genuine chances were still hard to come by.
A harmless shot which Griffiths sent wide was the first real effort on goal by either side, with almost ten minutes on the clock. It was an uncharacteristically tame effort, but the prolific striker reverted to type five minutes later when he fired his team into the lead. A clearance out of the Kilmarnock box had seemed secure enough, and was about to cross the halfway line when Wotherspoon headed it back upfield. With Jeroen Tesselaar wrongfooted, Griffiths seized on the loose ball, ran on unopposed into the box, and stroked it under Bell and into the net from around 15 yards out.
The home team’s response was not quite so quick as the flurry of goals in the earlier game, when three goals were scored in a couple of minutes, but when it did come it was decisive. William Gros did the damage with a low shot which Ben Williams could only push out as far as Dayton, and with the goalkeeper covering his near post, the winger cleverly shot high into the net.
Undaunted by the equaliser, Hibs pressed on, and were soon in front again, thanks to some atrocious work by the Kilmarnock defence. Bell put
Sissoko in difficulty with a pass inside the box, and the centre-half returned the compliment by thumping the ball back to his goalkeeper.
Apparently unaware that Griffiths was closing him down, Bell took a touch in a bid to control the ball before clearing. Griffiths was too quick for the keeper, however, and got a touch into the path of Done just before Bell brought him down. Done shot into the empty net to register his first goal for Hibs, and Bell was booked for the foul on Griffiths.
It was the last significant action of a half which had been so open that more goals after the break seemed all but inevitable. Yet, while Kilmarnock pressed hard in the first 20 minutes after the restart, they barely got a sniff of a direct scoring chance in that time. It was no surprise, then, when home manager Kenny Shiels made the first substitution of the afternoon, introducing Cillian Sheridan in place of Rory McKeown.
Shiels’ team had become over-elaborate in their attempts to get the equaliser, but when it came, it was pretty similar to the move which had produced their first goal. This time it was a shot by Dayton which Williams pushed clear, into the path of Heffernan. Before the striker could pull the trigger, however, he was impeded by Lewis Stevenson. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, and Heffernan scored with a fierce effort which Williams could do nothing about.
After so much hard work to get back on terms, Kilmarnock were then their own undoing when Griffiths got the better of Sissoko in a race for a through ball. Bell came out, collided with Sissoko, and got a touch on the deck. Griffiths also fell over, but showed the presence of mind to spin round while on the ground and hook the ball into the empty net.
More Kilmarnock madness followed minutes later when Ross Barbour was sent off for pulling Griffiths back just outside the box as the striker again threatened to break free. Gros, standing in the defensive wall, handled the resultant free-kick hand just inside the box to concede a penalty.
The Frenchman was booked, and Griffiths took the penalty, slamming the ball into the right corner of the net to ensure a place for Hibs in today’s semi-final draw alongside Celtic, Falkirk and Dundee United.