Falkirk 1-3 Hibs, March 29 2010
IT wasn’t pretty. In fact, at times it was downright ugly. But today Hibs boss John Hughes and his players will care little if this performance goes down as somewhat less than aesthetically pleasing.
Certainly, there have been many displays over the course of this season which have been easier on the eye.
However, given the torture everyone at Easter Road has been put through in recent weeks, culminating in that dismal Scottish Cup exit in Dingwall, all that mattered was returning from the Falkirk Stadium with three points.
To that end it was mission accomplished, a third victory of the season over the Bairns bringing a further reward in helping Hibs leapfrog Motherwell into fourth place and with it the knowledge that a win over Dundee United in Wednesday night’s rearranged match in Edinburgh will see them progress further up the SPL table.
On the face of it, that seems a tall order when taking into account the two clubs’ respective records of late, this being only Hibs’ second win in ten matches while United are unbeaten in six and have a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden to look forward to thanks to their win over champions-elect Rangers.
However, no-one should underestimate the restorative influence victory can bring a side labouring as their confidence was sapped with each passing week.
Ropey the performance against Falkirk might have been at times, Hughes himself admitting his side rode their luck in stages but, if nothing else, the Hibs manager could reflect on how his players refused to crumble when Mark Stewart pressed home the Bairns’ early dominance with the opening goal.
Again, questions were being asked about the quality, or lack of it, in the Easter Road side’s defending.
Derek Riordan, though, came up with the perfect retort, delivering a trademark free kick which soared over the defensive wall and curled down into goalkeeper Robert Olejnik’s right-hand corner less than two minutes later.
Anthony Stokes saw his shot deflect off Marc Twaddle and beyond Olejnik before Sol Bamba got on the end of Colin Nish’s flick from David Wotherspoon’s cross to claim his second goal of the season.
Graham Stack was far busier than Olejnik at the other end, leaving everyone in green and white just relieved to hear the final blast of referee Mike Tumilty’s whistle.
Hughes said: “This was a big test for us against a team fighting for their lives and I felt Falkirk were the dominant side for the first 15 or 20 minutes. They got their goal but I think that sparked us into life.
“We scored three and at half-time the game was over.”