THIS was not football for the faint hearted and Hibs manager Alan Stubbs admitted that it was a game his team may not have won earlier in the season. In horrible weather conditions, at one of the least glamorous grounds, having gone two goals up, they had to cope with the loss of their keeper and then face up to more consistent and confident attacks from their hosts in the second half. But despite losing one goal to set up a nervy finish, the capital side held on for all three points.
Scorers: Cowdenbeath - Robertson (63); Hibernian - Hanlon (25) Cummings (41)
It extends their unbeaten league run to six games and keeps them in the reckoning for a shot at promotion. It also earned the drookit players the plaudits of their gaffer, who said it proved that they have turned a corner.
“Sometimes, when we have been to away grounds, their character has been questioned on one or two occasions, but I don’t think it could be here. You’ve got to give them credit and I honestly believe that the team that went to grounds like this earlier on in the season is a different team than the one we saw here. That’s the most important thing. We are growing into the championship and learning what it takes to win at home and to win away and we will take a lot of confidence from this. ”
Hibs started the game far stronger than their hosts and took control early on, but it wasn’t until the 25th minute that they managed to get the scoreline advantage their play merited. Scott Allan, who was running the show in those early stages, delivered a ball over the top of the inrushing Liam Fontaine, but Paul Hanlon lost his marker to help it into the net from close range.
One of the only downsides to the first half, as far as Hibs were concerned, was the injury sustained by goalkeeper Mark Oxley when he collided with Kudas Oyenuga shortly after that opening goal. The keeper landed heavily on his back and looked hesitant throughout the remainder of the half. He was replaced by 19-year-old Kleton Perntreou after the break.
“Mark came in and was getting spasms up his back, which was getting stiffer and stiffer,” said Stubbs. “Kleton had one or two saves to make, but other than that it was a lot of crosses that I thought the lads at the back dealt with.”
Before that, though, the Leith side added a second in the 41st minute when Jason Cummings slammed home his sixth goal of the season from the middle of the area.
Having lost two goals and got soaked to the skin as the rain lashed down, the Cowdenbeath players must have thought things couldn’t get much worse, but the fact that they were back out sharp, waiting in the downpour rather than hiding away in the warmth of the dressing room, suggested that things had got a little too heated for their liking in there.
Manager Jimmy Nicholl confirmed he had laid into his players, furious at the way they had started the match. “To win a game of football you need to compete for 90 minutes, not 45, and we never competed in the first half.
“We made things easier for them and gave good players time to play and that’s something you cannot afford to do at this level.
“That was nowhere near what I expect. There was a lack of concentration for the first goal, and we were brushed off the ball too easily for the second one, so they got it at half-time. That’s the worst I have been for a long time, but I cannot accept them letting your opponents dictate the pace of the game.”
Cowdenbeath improved dramatically in the second half and deserved the goal that allowed them to really make a match of it right up to the final whistle.
The goal came from a 63rd-minute Lewis Milne cross, which was played in deep to the back post. Jon Robertson dropped off Lewis Stevenson and rose above him to angle the ball back across the face of Perntreou and into the net.
Cowdenbeath: Thomson, Wedderburn, Robertson, Milne, Higgins, Gallagher, Brett, Oyenuga (Sutherland 60), Miller, Marshall (Campbell 73), Fraser. Subs not used: Sneddon, O’Brien, Brownlie, Kane, Scullion.
Hibernian: Oxley (Perntreou 46), Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Robertson, Craig, Stevenson, Handling (Kennedy 73), Allan, Malonga (Harris 81), Cummings. Subs not used: Stanton, Heffernan, Sinclair, Booth.
Referee: C Charleston.