Hibernian 4 - 0 Dunfermline: Hibs beat Pars in relegation showdown
AFTER being haunted for months by the fear of relegation, Hibernian required all of 15 minutes last night to carry out an exorcism. It was a simpler, more confident affair than perhaps even the most optimistic of their supporters could have hoped for.
Scorers: Hibernian - Doherty (6), Doyle (10), O’Connor (15 pen), Hanlon (81)
Bookings: Dunfermline - McCann, McMillan, Hardie
With a five-point lead at the start of play, Hibs needed only a draw to ensure that they would be safe while Dunfermline went down. Instead, assisted by some dreadful defending from Jim Jefferies’ team, they wrapped up three points in that devastating opening burst. Goals from Matt Doherty and Eoin Doyle both resulted as much from pitifully slack defending as they did from decent build-up work, and when Garry O’Connor scored from the penalty spot the issue was settled.
Paul Hanlon scored a controversial fourth late in an anti-climactic second half, in which Dunfermline made little more than a token effort to resuscitate their challenge. We had expected a tense, tight affair. Instead, we got something which, after that opening salvo of goals, resembled a training exercise for Hibs.
With Leigh Griffiths suspended, Pat Fenlon went with Doyle rather than Roy O’Donovan up front alongside Garry O’Connor, who had recovered from the illness which curtailed his involvement in the win over Aberdeen five days earlier. Captain James McPake, who missed that game because of a groin strain, was able to start in central defence alongside Paul Hanlon, with Sean O’Hanlon dropping down to the bench. And Lewis Stevenson returned from suspension to replace George Francomb in midfield.
Dunfermline were without the banned Alex Keddie, and Jefferies also omitted Joe Cardle from the team which had drawn 0-0 in Inverness last midweek. Martin Hardie and Patrick Boyle came in, with Cardle making do with a place on the bench.
The bad weather had not deterred a sizeable crowd from turning up, and the ovation given to both teams when they came out on to the pitch augmented the cup-tie atmosphere. Fenlon had insisted Hibs would play to win – and his team were true to that promise as they raced into a two-goal lead in the opening ten minutes.
Full-back Doherty was first to score, heading into the far corner of the net from the right after McPake had flicked on a free-kick taken by Tom Soares. Doherty then turned provider for the second, popping up on the overlap to float in a cross which Doyle nodded into the net.
That goal was the end product of a sweeping move involving Jorge Claros and O’Connor before the latter fed Osbourne. It was impressive teamwork, the sort of thing which not too long ago would have been next to impossible for Hibs to produce, but from Dunfermline’s point of view it was worryingly easy.
And, as if going two behind was not bad enough for the Fife team, barely another five minutes passed before they found themselves three down. Austin McCann was the culprit, pulling Hanlon’s jersey in the box to concede a penalty. O’Connor, celebrating his 29th birthday, took it with a minimal run-up, stroking the ball to Chris Smith’s left.
That left Dunfermline needing four goals to preserve their SPL status. After 20 minutes Jordan McMillan had a good chance to pull one back when he was put through on the right, but Mark Brown got down well to block with his feet.
After going two up in just over quarter of an hour in Aberdeen, Hibs sensibly opted against trying to close the game down so early. With a three-goal lead in the bag here, however, they sat back a little bit, while keeping an eye out for a quick break.
The rest of the first half was sedate compared to that opening quarter of an hour. Dunfermline persevered in their attempt to get back into the game, but could not afford to throw too many men forward lest their defensive weaknesses be further exposed.
When the Fife team did contrive an opening, the Hibs defence were equal to it. That was best illustrated when Mark Kerr slid a ball through to David Graham, only for McPake, who a few seconds earlier had been upfield in support of his attack, to get back, block, get back to his feet and clear the danger.
Both teams made a change at the break, Hibs’ George Francomb replacing Pa Kujabi, who had taken a knock, and Cardle coming on for McCann. Just to ensure Dunfermline gained no encouragement from the early stages of the second half, Hibs were more attack-minded in the opening ten minutes than they had been in the equivalent spell before the interval.
In virtually the first real attack of the half, O’Connor had a good chance to score his second, but dragged his shot wide. That was almost the only incident of note for almost 20 minutes, at the end of which time Doyle should have made it 4-0. Osbourne’s low cross from the right evaded the defence and all the Irishman had to do was make contact from a couple of yards out. But he failed, and the score stayed at three.
Dunfermline’s hopes had long expired by that time, but with 15 minutes to play Martin Hardie at least came close to a consolation. He hit his shot from 20 yards, but Brown dived to his left to save it with a little help from the post.
Then, with ten minutes remaining, Hanlon made it four. Passing wide to Osbourne, the centre-half continued his run into the box, and met his team-mate’s cross with a volley which crashed off the underside of the bar and back out. Hanlon clutched his head, thinking he had missed, but the officials – wrongly – ruled the ball had crossed the line.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
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